Apparel retailers in India are taking a mixed approach towards discounts on their unsold stocks as shopping malls and stores reopen across the country after a protracted lockdown.
Some retailers are refraining from steep discounts at the moment to give more store exposure to their fresh spring-summer merchandise, which had remained locked after the government imposed a lockdown in March-end. Such retailers are looking to sell their full-priced merchandise at least for the next few weeks or run small promotions to draw shoppers in stores.
In normal times, offline retailers tend to start their end of season sale from the middle of June, continuing till mid-July.
Some retailers are meanwhile planning their sales but only towards the end of July or early August, hoping that customers, most of whom are currently wary of contracting infection, will slowly start to return to showrooms by then.
“We have not mounted any discount in our stores. Third-party e-commerce portals are offering sale on the old merchandise but there is price parity across online and offline for the current collection," said Sundeep Chugh, chief executive officer and managing director, Benetton India.
Online retailers such as Myntra and Amazon have however commenced their seasonal sales. Moreover, several foreign brands are also seeing merit in offering discounts. Spanish fashion label Zara began its seasonal sale last week; both in-stores and online, while Marks & Spencer has been offering discounts on its website as well as retail stores.
Chugh said Benetton is turning to a “one season" approach this year, looking at the impact of global pandemic. The company will avoid any production of excess and undesirable inventory. The intention is to continue with the existing collection till the end of this year, he added. Benetton has so far opened 550 of its over 850 stores in India. The company has “no plan" for a sale at the moment, Chugh said.
“I would like to actually push my sales to end of July or early August, but I’d have to probably respond to the market. I’m definitely not doing the sale in the next few weeks. I think the range has not gotten enough exposure. We lost the whole of March, April and May, so we need at least two more months," said Siddhartha Bindra, managing director, at ethnic wear brand Biba that has over 280 stores.
Biba typically runs a mid-season sale in the month of June. So far, Bindra said he has not discounted any fresh merchandise. Online, too, Biba has not put its Spring-Summer ‘20 collection on discount, instead liquidating old inventory.
Apparel retailers are in a bind as the lockdown and the subsequent fear of a spike in infections has prompted shoppers to remain indoors and postpone any major purchase decisions. Moreover, most shoppers are veering towards buying only casual wear or apparel as they stay indoors. Bindra said the timing is not right for any discounts as “customer footfalls are extremely low".
Biba plans to wait to put out promotions until consumer confidence improves.
Consumers cooped up at home gave discretionary categories such as apparel and clothing, jewellery, watches, accessories and beauty a skip—all categories reported over 60% slump in business in the first 15 days of June, compared to the same period a year ago, Retailers Association of India said in a note last week. Sale of consumer electronics, grocery and furnishings were less impacted.
“Over the last few years, because of competition from online retailers, end of season sales have been getting advanced. This year, I’m hoping to not have an end of season sale at all," said Sanjay Vakharia, CEO at Spykar Lifestyles, which mostly sells casual wear such as T-shirts and boxers.