Pandemic Covid-19 has made fashion retail brands look for alternative ways to reach consumers, who remain confined to their homes. Retailers such as Levi’s, Metro Shoes, Fab Alley, etc. It has launched initiatives such as ‘home visits’ and ‘shops on wheels’ to combat low footsteps in stores.
According to Anurag Mathur, partner and leader, retail and consumer, PwC India, footsteps in most retail stores remained below 50% compared to pre-Covid levels.
“While online sales recovered at 75% from pre-Covid levels, offline has been hit and walk-in is 90% lower than the pre-Covid period,” said Tanvi Malik, co-founders, FabAlley and Indya. The brand operates 400 stores, of which 260 are open, and 31 exclusive brand outlets (EBO) where 22 of them operate, at present. Locking and closing shop rules that continue to change over the weekend also affect offline retail.
To continue distribution, Levi’s has introduced the concept of ‘store on wheels’ in Delhi and Gurugram, with plans to improve it in other cities soon. “We have a comfortable collection of lightweight tops, shorts and lightweight ‘work from home’ collections for the concept of this mobile shop,” said Sanjeev Mohanty, MD, South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, Levi Strauss & Co. The van reaches out to residential communities where consumers can try clothes in their homes and for change, the team in the field takes measurements. The final product, after being modified at the nearest store, is returned to the customer. Footwear brand Indian brickalso set up a mobile shop in the apartment complex.
FabAlley, has introduced the ‘Indya by Appointment’ service for its ethnic clothing brand, where the company shares its catalog with customers through What is wrong and then send the selected product to their home. The Metro Brands shoe retailer has also adopted a similar model.
Metro Brands, which currently has 75% of its stores open in the country, reaches its loyal customer base through WhatsApp. Retailers have 550 stores in the country and house brands such as Metro Shoes, Mochi Shoes, Walkaway, etc.
“This is a source of additional revenue for us and we are now investing in automating the process,” said Alisha Malik, VP, marketing and e-commerce, Metro Brands. The company has visited 2,000 homes so far this month in launching this initiative, while FabAlley makes around seven-eight visits per week.
However, according to Mathur from PwC, while this new model is worth a try, they won’t make up for the loss of footsteps for retail brands.
“This alternative method only addresses some of the challenges that are the inability of consumers to leave the house. However, most problems remain that there are no opportunities for consumers to buy fashion products, “he added.
This new channel also presents a series of new challenges for retailers. Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and leader, consumer and retail products, EY India, said that because retailers can only send small assortments to customers’ homes or to their cellphone shops, they need to choose the variety well. This is so that customers find the product of their choice and conversion through this model is high.
In addition to inventory, managing costs can be another problem for these players because they can incur higher costs by sending employees to customers’ homes, which does not have to translate into sales.
“This will only work if there is a lot of demand in an area and the company starts to produce volumes so shipping costs are shared. If not, that would be an expensive proposition, “Mishra added.
As fashion retailers grapple with the challenge of low sales, industry observers have now pinned their hopes on the festive season to restore demand for fashion products in the country. Most fashion retailers see 30-50% of revenue loss in FY21 due to a pandemic, experts say.