Growth gets thinner for Zara as competition grows in size

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May 20, 2024

Sagar Malviya, Economic Times

Mumbai, 20 May 2024

Spain’s Inditex, the owner of fashion brand Zara, saw its slowest ever sales growth in India, excluding the pandemic year, in FY24 as the world’s largest fashion group faced rising competition from global rivals in the clothing market that is increasingly getting cluttered.

Inditex Trent, its joint venture with Tata that runs 23 of Zara stores in India, saw revenue rise 8% to Rs 2,775 crore last fiscal, significantly down from 40% growth a year ago, according to Trent’s annual report. Net profit was down too at Rs 244 crore, an 8% drop.

Zara has been a runaway success since its arrival in the country more than a decade ago but after initially doubling sales every two years, the brand’s rate of expansion had come down in the past few years. “The market is very competitive, and the challenges are real. Nevertheless, the opportunity pool and the size of the market means that there is space for multiple successful players. Trent remains well placed to navigate this next phase of growth by leveraging our platform and growth engines,” P Venkatesalu, chief executive officer at Trent, said in the report.

Trent that runs Westside has shifted focus on its lower priced fast fashion brand Zudio, which opened about four new stores every week on average last fiscal to take the total store count at 545 doors. Trent also has a separate association with the Inditex group to operate Massimo Dutti stores in India. The entity saw revenues rise 14% to Rs. 102 crore.

Experts said consumer demand has been affected in the past couple of years with brands having to work extra hard to get same-store growth and much of top-line growth has come for brands from store additions.

“Most international and premium Indian brands are competing for a relatively narrow slice of the population pie in the larger urban centres. While the Indian market is a bright spot amid the gloom in the world’s major economies, global pressures are likely to play a part in the confidence among brands to invest in expansion,” Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight, said, adding there is not necessarily “fatigue” for the brand.

“But if the contest for the consumer’s attention is more intense and the consumer’s choices are more fragmented across a wider choice of brands, that will definitely have an impact on any individual brand’s performance.”

Being the world’s second most-populous country, India is an attractive market for apparel brands, especially with youngsters increasingly embracing western-style clothing. Most of Zara’s back-end and merchandise sourcing are handled by Inditex, while the Tata expertise is mainly for identifying real estate and locations.

(Published in Economic Times)

Starbucks Records Slowest Growth Since Pandemic In India Last Fiscal

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May 6, 2024

Sesa Sen, NDTV Profit

6 May 2024

Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee chain, posted its slowest sales growth in India since the pandemic. The coffee giant is struggling to bring in as much business as it has in the past as consumers reduce their visits even as it prepares for ambitious store expansion in a tea-drinking nation.

The India unit formed in partnership with the Tata Group clocked net sales of Rs 1,218 crore, a growth of 12%, during the year ended March 2024, according to Tata Consumer Products Ltd.’s latest investor presentation.

The Seattle-based retailer experienced a compounded annual growth rate of 21.89% between FY17 and FY23 in the world’s most populous nation. The only exception to this trend was in FY21, when sales plunged by 33% as shops were forced to shut down due to the impact of Covid-19.

“Tata Starbucks had a subdued quarter given the overall trends that we’re seeing in the QSR [quick service restaurants] business,” said Sunil D’Souza, managing director and chief executive officer at Tata Consumer Products.

He, however, indicated that March was an improvement over February, and April was even better than March. “So, we see a better trend right now, and we remain focused on the larger India opportunity.”

Tata Starbucks Pvt. Ltd. took 11 years to scale its operations to a revenue of over Rs 1,000 crore. Although the joint venture turned positive at the EBITDA level for the fiscal year 2023, it continues to be loss-making. In the year ending March 2023, Tata Starbucks posted a net loss of Rs 25 crore on a turnover of Rs 1,087 crore, according to filings with the Registrar of Companies. The net profit figures for fiscal 2024 are not available yet.

The coffee chain has seen its popularity take a major hit over the last two quarters, ending in March and December, with a meagre 7% increase in sales during each period. This is a marked shift from its historical track record of double-digit growth, suggesting that consumers are now looking for more budget-friendly cafe experiences.

“Consumers have turned slightly more conservative with their spends, which is affecting both the frequency and of transactions,” according to Devangshu Dutta, head of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.

According to him, new store openings rather than an increase in sales at existing ones could drive growth.

The other reason is that the coffee market is more competitive today, with most local peers selling at price points lower than Starbucks, Dutta said.

Starbucks competes with Bengaluru-based Cafe Coffee Day and foreign entrant Barista, among others, in the country’s $400 million market. It also faces competition from private equity-backed Third Wave and Blue Tokai, which have opened about 200 stores between them in the last three years.

Since opening its first cafe in October 2012, Tata Starbucks’ store count has grown to 421, implying that on average, each outlet generated roughly Rs 3 crore in revenue from coffee, snacks, and merchandise sales in FY24.

The dwindling sales come at a time when the company plans to open 1,000 cafes in India. To meet the target, it seeks to open one new store every three days.

Starbucks added 29 net new stores between January and March, achieving a record of 95 stores opening in a year, according to the presentation.

The coffee chain had earlier said it plans to enter tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country and increase the number of its drive-through, airport-based and 24-hour cafes. It also aims to double its headcount to 8,600.

To lure consumers back after a rough start to the year, the coffee giant is launching new products like a boba-inspired summer beverage.

“Over the past 11 years, the India market has grown to become one of Starbucks’ fastest-growing markets in the world,” Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive officer, Starbucks, said in a statement during his India visit earlier this year. “With a growing middle class, we are proud to help cultivate the evolving coffee culture while honouring its rich heritage.”

Starbucks faces challenges not only in India but also globally. A disastrous fourth quarter that saw a slowdown in store visits promoted Starbucks Corp. to lower its expectations for its full-year sales and profit. Its revenue for the January–March period dropped 2%, the first since the end of 2020.

Inditex to launch Bershka and Zara Home in India this year

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April 15, 2024

Sagar Malviya, Economic Times
Mumbai, 15 April 2024

Spanish fashion company Inditex said it will launch youth clothing brand Bershka and Zara Home in India this year.

“Bershka will open its first store in Mumbai Palladium, and Zara Home will open in Bangalore,” it said in its latest annual report.

Inditex had launched fast fashion brand Zara in 2010 and premium clothing brand Massimo Dutti eight years ago. Its new offering, Bershka, will pitch it directly against Reliance Retail’s Yousta, which too targets the younger consumer segment.

Being the world’s second most-populous country, India is an attractive market for apparel brands, especially with youngsters increasingly embracing Western-style clothing. Fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M became runaway successes soon after they entered the country.

Experts said Bershka’s target consumer profile is mostly teens to mid-20s, slightly younger than that of Zara, which is pitched at 20-40-year-old fashion-driven customers.

“The product assortment is different, with a higher share of knits, fewer dresses and more casual overall compared to Zara, keeping in line with the lifestyles of the customer group. So in that sense it wouldn’t cannibalise Zara in any serious way, though some of the younger set among Zara buyers could migrate some of their purchases to Bershka,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. “The biggest question is, can they hit the price points that young Indian fashion consumers want as with domestic brands such as Zudio, Yousta and others, or will consumers overlook higher prices for the style mix and a European brand pull in significant numbers to make the brand viable.”

According to a recent report by Motilal Oswal, the ₹2.5 lakh crore value fashion segment accounts for 57% of the total apparel market and is one of the largest and fastest-growing segments. A substantial untapped opportunity beyond the metros and tier-1 cities, driven by better demographics, higher incomes and greater customer aspiration, has compelled several big players to enter a market that was previously dominated by regional and local operators.

Since its inception in 2016-17, Zudio has seen considerable expansion and reached nearly 400 standalone stores, outpacing most apparel brands primarily due to its competitively priced products with an average selling price of ₹300. Following the success of Zudio, a unit of the Tata Group’s Trent, the segment has seen the entry of national retailers in the affordable youth clothing segment such as Yousta by Reliance Retail, Style-Up by Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail and Shoppers Stop’s InTune.

(Published in Economic Times)

Realty race in Maximum City as Tata Group, Reliance Industries keep on shopping

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February 23, 2024

Kailash Babar & Sagar Malviya, Economic Times

Mumbai, 23 February 2024

Tata Group and Reliance Industries, two of India’s largest conglomerates, are vying for premium retail real estate in Mumbai as they extend their footprints, creating rivalry in a city starved of marquee properties. From Zara and Starbucks to Westside and Titan, the Tata Group occupies nearly 25 million square feet of retail space in India. That is still no match for Reliance Industries that control three times more at 73 million sq ft for more than 100 local and global brands.

But in Mumbai, they are evenly matched, having nearly 3 million sq ft of retail space each. That is a quarter of what is considered the most prime retail real estate in the country, and both the retail giants are looking for more.

“In a modern retail environment, most visible locations contain more successful or larger brands. It just so happens that many of those brands are owned by either Reliance or the Tatas,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of Third Eyesight, a strategy consulting firm.

“Tatas have been in retail for longer but also slower to scale up compared to Reliance which had this stated ambition of being the most dominant and put the money behind it,” he said.

In a market where demand is much higher than supply, developers and landlords seek to separate the wheat from the chaff, experts said. Ultimately, success in Mumbai’s retail real estate scene hinges on a delicate equilibrium between accommodating industry leaders and fostering a vibrant, varied shopping environment, they said. “In the competitive landscape of retail real estate in Mumbai, commercial developers and mall owners often face the strategic challenge of accommodating prominent retail brands,” said Abhishek Sharma, director, retail, at commercial real estate consultants Knight Frank India.

“These big brands, with a significant market share of 40-45% in the Indian retail sector, can easily be termed as industry giants and possess the potential to command 45-50% of space in any mall,” he said. According to Sharma, there may be perceptions of preferential treatments, but the dynamics are complex, and developers must balance the demand from these major brands with the need for a diverse tenant mix.

Tata Group entered retail in the late 1980s, initially by opening Titan watch stores and a decade later by launching department store Westside. So far, it has about 4,600 stores, including brands such as Tanishq, Starbucks, Westside, Zudio, Zara and Croma.

While Reliance Retail started in 2006, it overcompensated for its late entry by aggressively opening stores across formats. Reliance has over 18,774 stores across supermarkets, electronics, jewellery, and apparel space. It has also either partnered or acquired over 80 global brands, from Gap and Superdry to Balenciaga and Jimmy Choo. A diverse portfolio of brands across various segments through strategic partnerships and collaborations helps an entity like Reliance to leverage synergies and enhance retail presence, especially in malls, experts said.

“The array of brands with Reliance bouquet allows it to enter early into the project and set the tone and positioning of the mall,” said a retail leasing expert who requested not to be identified.

“This positively helps the mall to set its own positioning and future tenant mix. It also helps Reliance place their brands in most relevant zones within the mall. This will emerge as a clear differentiator in a city like Mumbai where brands are already jostling for space, which is the costliest in the country,” the person added.

(Published in Economic Times)

10th Year Of Festive Season Sales: 5 Trends That Will Define Clash Of Amazon, Flipkart, Meesho & Cos This Year

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October 7, 2023

Gargi Sarkar, Inc42

7 Oct 2023

The Indian ecommerce industry anticipates a stronger festive season compared to last year with over 20% sales growth, driven by the D2C segment’s expected 40% QoQ surge

The overlap of festive celebrations and wedding seasons, particularly with a later Diwali this year, is predicted to further stimulate demand

Despite the evident purchase intent, retailers are preparing for a possibly neutral festive season as economic challenges may hit consumers’ spending

As the festive season rings in its 10th anniversary in the ecommerce realm, giants like Flipkart and Amazon are prepping for their annual mega sales, set to begin on October 8. This year, however, they will face tough competition from newer players, including Meesho, which carved out a significant slice of the festive sales pie last year.

With new entrants like Tata Neu and JioMart, and fashion and lifestyle ecommerce players such as Myntra, Nykaa, and AJIO, the stage seems to be set for a fierce showdown.

For these ecommerce platforms, the annual festive sales aren’t merely about revenue generation; they’re pivotal customer engagement and acquisition opportunities. These events lure consumers with compelling discounts and promotions, giving a considerable boost to their yearly sales targets.

Through strategic marketing blitzes, they also aim to amplify brand recognition and glean insights into shopper preferences. Following last year’s subdued festivities, market analysts have predicted a revival in shoppers’ enthusiasm this year, forecasting a robust 20% surge in sales.

The festive season this year is set to witness a remarkable upswing in the ecommerce sector’s gross merchandise value (GMV). According to consulting firm Redseer, the GMV is anticipated to see an 18-20% surge, amounting to INR 90,000 Cr, a leap from INR 76,000 Cr in the previous year.

“The preceding quarter (April to June) witnessed a subdued performance in both offline and online retail sectors, primarily due to persistent inflationary pressures. However, the scenario is expected to undergo a transformation during the upcoming festive season. Festive periods tend to unleash latent consumer demand, prompting individuals to open their wallets more liberally,” Ashish Dhir, EVP (consumer and retail) of business consulting and services firm 1Lattice said.

There is a growing focus on electronics and appliances as traditional categories of interest. However, fashion and beauty are also emerging as important categories. The emergence of luxury goods is another important segment, which will likely make waves during the upcoming festive sales.

The ecommerce industry anticipates a stronger festive season compared to last year with over 20% sales growth, driven by the D2C segment’s expected 40% quarter-over-quarter (Q0Q) surge. However, average user spending is likely to remain flat.

Further, Tier III cities and beyond are becoming key revenue contributors, particularly in the fashion and beauty categories. Although consumer sentiment has improved, retailers are wary that buyers could maintain a cautious stance when it comes to spending lavishly.

While there is much to look forward to, let’s delve deeper into what shoppers and retailers can expect from this milestone year, which marks 10 years of festive sales fervour in the Indian ecommerce space.

D2C Brands To Lead The Charge

Notably, the Indian market is projected to have 500 Mn+ online shoppers by 2030, growing at 12% compound annual growth rate from 205 Mn in 2022, according to a 2020 report.

As far as the upcoming quarter is concerned, industry experts forecast that the homegrown ecommerce sector will likely see impressive growth of over 20%.

Playing a pivotal role in this escalation will be the D2C segment, predicted to grow more than 40% QoQ from October to December. Established ecommerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart and Meesho could also be looking at an approximate 30% uptick in sales, according to experts.

Tracing back to the inaugural ecommerce festive sales in 2014, the industry’s GMV was recorded at INR 27,000 Cr. Fast forward to 2023, the GMV is poised to touch an impressive INR 5,25,000 Cr, a nearly 20-fold increase, per a RedSeer report.

Festive Ecommerce OffersAverage User Spending Could Remain Muted

Despite the rise in GMV in 2022 compared to 2021, average expenditure per shopper held steady at INR 5,200 during the initial four days of the festive season sale, according to a RedSeer report.

This year doesn’t seem poised for a significant spike in individual user spending either. However, there is a silver lining in the form of rising consumer activity in smaller towns and cities. On the flip side, elevated living costs in metropolises like Bengaluru and Mumbai could dent extravagant consumer spending, noted Devangshu Dutta, the founder and CEO of Third Eyesight, a boutique management consulting firm.

Yet, with the growing online shopper populace in these cities, there’s potential for the average order value (AoV) to reduce as more users flock online to shop.

“As the online shopping base continues to expand, the average spending per user naturally tends to decrease. This phenomenon occurs as more people venture into ecommerce, with platforms like Amazon and Flipkart extending their reach to cover a broader audience. However, it’s essential to note that this drop in the average ticket size is a common trend when the customer base expands,” Sangeeta Verma, director of digiCart India said.

Consumers Sentiment Positive, But Retailers Remain Realistic

With the waning impact of inflation, India is witnessing a positive shift in consumer sentiment from the previous year. Unlike several developed nations wrestling with inflation, India has remained largely untouched by its dual impact on demand and supply, experts suggest.

For example, Flipkart delivered strong gross merchandise value (GMV) and sales growth in the company’s second quarter of the financial year 2023-24 (FY24), Walmart’s chief financial officer John David Rainey said during an earnings call.

“In India, the distinguishing factor in terms of festive demand is that it’s not merely brand-driven; consumers here are eager to spend, and the purchase intent is notably high. Unlike some developed economies grappling with inflationary concerns, both the demand and supply sides in India have not seen any impact of inflation. The consumer demand continues to stay buoyant,” Chirag Tanjeja, cofounder and CEO of GoKwik said.

The overlap of festive celebrations and wedding seasons, particularly with a later Diwali this year, is predicted to further stimulate demand, 1Lattice’s Dhir added.

Nevertheless, a note of caution reverberates among retailers. Despite the evident purchase intent, retailers are preparing for a possibly neutral festive season as economic challenges may hit consumers’ spending.

However, a recent study conducted by Nielsen Media India and commissioned by Amazon India says otherwise. According to the report, 81% of consumers are enthusiastic about shopping during the upcoming festive season. More importantly, this positive sentiment towards online shopping is not limited to metropolitan areas but Tier II and III cities and towns.

Ecommerce Platforms Ramp Up Efforts To Woo Sellers

In this year’s festive season, a standout trend is ecommerce giants’ intensified drive to court and captivate sellers with multiple strategic offerings like enticing commission rates, equipping them with advanced selling tools, enhancing the overall selling experience, and broadening their outreach.

Recently, ecommerce heavyweight Meesho made its platform accessible to non-GST registered sellers too. Not too behind in the race is Amazon India, which unveiled its multi-channel fulfilment (MCF) last month for D2C brands and retailers. This initiative is expected to aid sellers in managing customer orders from diverse channels.

Meanwhile, Flipkart flaunted its impressive seller growth, citing a tally surpassing 1.4 Mn — a notable 27% jump since 2022. Meesho currently has a seller base of 1.3 Mn and Amazon has over 1.2 Mn sellers.

Echoing the seller-side optimism, digiCart’s Verma said, “As a seller, we hold a very bullish sentiment. We’re so confident that we started stocking up well in advance. The robust build-up is evident from the current numbers. Mature sellers will expand into existing and new categories after.”

A recent survey by Redseer revealed that sellers are projecting a 15% increase in festive sales year-on-year. Even though the recent sales momentum on ecommerce platforms has been somewhat subdued — with only 40% of those surveyed reporting a 10% quarterly hike — there’s palpable enthusiasm for a significant festive sales boost across a multitude of product sectors.

Who Will Drive The Festive Ecommerce Growth?

Tier II and III cities and towns are expected to be the biggest contributors in this year’s festive season sales. According to experts, customers from these cities and towns are keen on giving their wardrobes and beauty kits a festive makeover. Although Tier I cities are spoilt for choice with numerous offline stores, spanning both legacy and contemporary brands, such luxuries are scarce in smaller cities.

However, this is steadily changing now. Some of the prominent D2C brands that have emerged from the country’s Tier II & III towns and cities are Raipur-based Drools, Mohali-based Lahori, Kanpur-based Phool, Coimbatore-based Juicy Chemistry, just to name a few.

Furthermore, consumer demand in the eastern regions of the country, along with enhanced connectivity in the Northeast, is also on the rise. Semi-urban and rural areas are fast emerging as the driving force behind the new wave of ecommerce growth, a trend expected to be pronounced during the festive season.

Considering that a whopping 65% of India’s populace resides in rural regions, the untapped ecommerce potential is immense, according to the Economic Survey 2022-23.

Yet, fostering trust will be paramount. Residents in these regions typically bank on word-of-mouth endorsements and recommendations from local retailers when exploring new products and brands. This is expected to give local D2C brands a much-needed boost in the upcoming festive season.
What’s Beyond The Festive Sale Fervour

As festive trends leave their mark in the ecommerce landscape, we’re likely to witness several transformative strategies. Central to this evolution will be Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) schemes. Yet, the traditional cash-on-delivery remains a preferred choice for many.

Ecommerce brands are increasingly prioritising customer retention, recognising that fostering enduring relationships offers more value. This shift is evident in the rise of loyalty programmes.

Notably, Flipkart introduced “Flipkart VIP” – a direct competitor to Amazon’s Prime – right before the festive sales kickoff. Simultaneously, Meesho debuted a loyalty initiative, targeting both customers and sellers.

Apart from the dominant themes, a few other noteworthy trends are slated to redefine the festive shopping narrative. Black Friday, for instance, is set for a revamp. Gen Z’s influence, especially their propensity to favour specific brands, will be significant.

Last year, for D2C brands, the Black Friday event overshadowed the traditional Diwali and Dusshera festivals in sales figures. GoKwik data indicates that brands on their platform saw a staggering 63% rise in GMV during the Black Friday sale, contrasting starkly with the 10-day Diwali sales.

Also, Christmas, too, is evolving. The allure of winter holidays and modern gifting practices are propelling this transformation, turning Christmas into a significant commercial event.

Given that the final leg of 2023 (October to December) will host almost all the major Indian festivals, the ecommerce players are in for a treat. Even though there will be a lot of cut-throat competition among ecommerce players, there will be no dearth of opportunities for them to woo customers who are eager to splurge to add more flavours to their festive celebrations this year. Going ahead, we will keep a close eye on the ecommerce players and D2C brands that will emerge triumphant after the great Indian festive showdown.

(Published in Inc42)