Global labels cashing on kidswear

Global labels cashing on kidswear

A colleague’s friend is married to a German and lives in Venezuela with her two sons aged four and two. A Delhi girl, she comes to India every summer for a family reunion. But her visit isn’t complete without meeting her bunch of boarding school friends—all married and most with children two to eight years old. The average age in the group is 35 years.

The woman from Venezuela has been in Delhi for two weeks and the gang has met a couple of times at one of their friends’ houses at Sainik Farms—a south Delhi neighbourhood where people live in farm houses.

The interesting part of the story is that the woman from Venezuela lands in Delhi and hits Sarojini Nagar market—a shopper’s paradise for best bargains in clothes, mostly export surplus and rejects. She rummages her way through the shelves to pick clothes for her children.

The rest of the friends, who shopped in the market in their heyday in college, have since switched to Select City Walk, DLF Promenade and DLF Emporio—the Capital’s upmarket malls for shopping, especially for children’s clothing. In fact they are openly disapproving of their friend’s visits to the local market and prod her to walk the malls.

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But the young lady has ignored their advice. It’s not that her successful businessman husband cannot afford fashion labels. She just chooses moderation over excess in spends on clothes for children, who outgrow them faster than you can buy.

My colleague, who is part of this group, promptly reported their teatime conflict. She said a good amount of time was spent discussing—and flaunting—children’s brands.

Her account of the tete-a-tete only reflects what smart marketers like Vikas Purohit have already sensed: foreign apparel labels for children are in demand in India. So the chief operating officer of Planet Retail Holdings is not only launching kidswear label Next in a big way, he is also introducing the Ted Baker collection for children at his revamped Debenham’s stores.

He says that American children’s wear brands OshKosh B’gosh and Carter’s are keen to enter Indian and exploring partnership possibilities. In the last two years, children’s clothing lines have been launched by big foreign brands—Allen Solly, Puma, Tommy Hilfiger and Zara, among others. Marketers say some kidswear brands that launched earlier did not take off as the market had not evolved. Some of those that shut shop are now interested in coming back.

Purohit insists there will be a surge in foreign children’s labels here backed by the changing retail environment for premium labels. Seasoned retailer Vipin Kapoor is the managing director of the Punjab-based Kapsons group that runs a chain of multi-brand apparel stores stocking premium fashion labels. Seizing the opportunity in kidswear, he is launching Kapsons stores for juniors to sell brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Puma, United Colours of Benetton and US Polo, all under the same roof. The plan is for 12 large format, concept stores in two years beginning with Punjab.

With the growing presence of retail formats such as Kapsons and consumers akin to my colleague’s friends, foreign apparel brands cannot afford to miss the India opportunity. If foreign brands were to observe Indian parents closely, their conviction of a potentially large market here would only grow stronger.

The average Indian parents are indulgent. Interestingly, a qualitative researcher who has worked on the subject says new Indian parents are micro-involved with their children, a consequence of the switch they made to being a nuclear family. But children are not allowed to take autonomous decisions, even if it is on what they want to wear. They live in the realm of approval from adults in everything.

In the last five years, salaries of young, affluent parents have also doubled. Curiously, they want to dress up their children to match their station in life. Clearly, the four- and five-year-olds do not get excited about clothes. Their parents do.

Purohit agrees. He observes his own behaviour to figure out how young parents respond to kids’ brands. Recently, he bought a pair of denims for his three-year-old. It was distressed linen (read fashionably torn jeans). So it’s hard to see why Elizabeth Hurley beachwear for little girls, now available in India, won’t sell.

What’s also making the environment conducive to the entry of foreign children’s labels is that wardrobes in India are also getting cluttered and complex. Earlier, children had fewer clothes in the closet. The old faded stuff could be worn at home while the new clothes were reserved for going out. Now there are dresses for the weekend, formal wear, sportswear and much else.

Little surprise then premium foreign labels are flocking to India to cut a share in the estimated 22,000 crore industry that includes children’s clothes and shores. The foreign branded apparel segment is growing at between 30% and 40%. The revenue is growing for sure, Purohit says. Profits will follow, he believes.

Shuchi Bansal is marketing and media editor with Mint. Comment at