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BengaluruIndia’s fashion retail landscape is fast changing as e-tailers Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon and Reliance Retail Ltd make a dash to evolve as the top players, ramping up partnerships with offline retailers, who continue to be disrupted by the pandemic.

Even as fashion moves indoors with a focus on comfort wear and athleisure, online retailers are doubling down on the category, which has witnessed ‘revenge buying’ in the ongoing festive sales.

With close to 50 million first-time customers expected to shop online this year, and fashion being the first touch point on e-commerce platforms, e-tailers are aggressively adding value-focused brands, forging strategic online-offline partnerships and boosting private labels.

Online fashion has seen one of the strongest growth among various categories in festive sales for Walmart-owned Flipkart that sold over 16 million products during the recent ‘Big Billion Day’ sale, across 40,000 brands and saw a 51% increase in shoppers from Tier 2 cities over last year.

Last week, Flipkart Group bought a minority stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd (ABFRL) for 1,500 crore in a bid to ramp up its fashion business and co-create new-brands to meet the emerging demands of new consumers. The deal adds strategic value to Flipkart-owned fashion marketplace Myntra as well. In July, Flipkart had also bought a stake in Arvind Youth Brands, which owns the Flying Machine brand, for 260 crore.

Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said the ABFRL deal will allow a wide range of products available across different retail formats.

“Multichannel integration and seamless offline/online transactions will be the way forward. Fashion has emerged as a strong category for e-commerce and witnessed accelerated growth during the pandemic. There is a reluctance to head for common shopping areas, making online shopping an integral part of the new normal for fashion as well," a Myntra spokesperson said.

Myntra said its ‘Big Fashion Festival’ sale in October was its biggest festive sale ever, where nearly 4 million shoppers bought 13 million products across categories. Its sale saw close to 1 million new shoppers on its platform, with a 180% growth of shoppers from Tier 3 cities, compared to the previous edition.

Once rivals, e-commerce firms are now partnering with offline retailers to launch their own private labels, plug inventory gaps and reap higher margins than retailing fashion items, a move that also allows the latter to push brick-and-mortar inventory online.

According to a recent consumer sentiment survey by Redseer, close to 80% consumers were looking to spend on fashion categories during this festive sales, with 34% looking to increase their spends on fashion as compared to 21% customers for buying smartphones.

Ankur Bisen, senior vice president, retail and consumer, at management consulting firm Technopak said the big retail play is now a triangle comprising Amazon, Reliance Retail and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

“These players are now evaluating options to hit the ground running. In this context, the Flipkart-Aditya Birla deal makes a lot of sense because it allows vertical specialisation. While Amazon’s focus has never really been on fashion world over, Flipkart has so far pushed its fashion business through Myntra, which has displayed organizational focus through its private labels Jabong etc," Bisen said.

Amazon Fashion launched 6,200 new fashion brands on its portal this year. In the first 72 hours of its ongoing ‘Great Indian Festival’ sale, Amazon received fashion orders from more than 2 million customers and sees over 80% of its new fashion shoppers from Tier 2 and 3 markets.

“We see collaborative efforts as the future of fashion that will drive the customers and create anticipation. At Amazon Fashion, we recently entered into a special collaboration with Easybuy, offering “super styles" at “super prices". Our aim was to provide customers with a wide selection of products and a simple, quick, convenient, trusted and reliable shopping experience," said Arun Sirdeshmukh, head, Amazon Fashion India.

Amazon recently launched an affordable designer wear brand RIVER by partnering with top designers like Ashish Soni, Suneet Varma, JJ Valaya, and Manish Arora. The e-tailer also has brands like Symbol, which are more focused towards value-customers.

Myntra houses private label brands such as Roadster, HRX, Anouk among others, which also contributed to about 26% of its recently concluded sale event.

Madhurima Nandy contributed to the story.

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