Indians opt for long-lasting wear rather than fast-fashion: Uniqlo

Uniqlo, Asia’s biggest clothing brand, said Indian consumers are increasingly switching from “fast fashion” to sustainable essentials and functional clothing, which will help the company grow.

Over the past decade, global brands Zara and H&M have emerged as fast fashion market leaders in India. However, Uniqlo said consumers are opting for durable and long-lasting clothes instead of cheap, mass-produced clothes in India and around the world.

“India is an important and very important priority market. The Indian customer is sensitive to quality and fit that is functional, and we are seeing the consumer mindset shift from short-term fad to a long-term essential fashion. India offers a high-potential market for the trend,” Tomohiko Sei, CEO of Uniqlo India, told ET.

As the second most populous country in the world, India is an attractive market for clothing brands, especially with young people increasingly embracing Western-style clothing. Uniqlo is globally popular for its functional basics like t-shirts, jeans and woolen garments, unlike its fast fashion rivals who are associated with designs that move quickly from catwalk to showroom.

Zara and H&M stock fast fashion items created in-house and partner with designers for unique collections. They keep a large inventory of everyday staples from places like India and Bangladesh which are priced lower than most of its rivals.

The Japanese brand opened its first Indian store in September 2019, but strict lockdown measures were announced to contain the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. This delayed its store expansion plans, limiting the number of stores to six. Uniqlo said it plans to open more stores and enter new cities as part of its expansion plan, but will initially focus on northern India. The company will open a store in Lucknow next week, its first outlet outside Delhi NCR.

“Covid had a big impact on us as most spring-summer activities and projects disappeared due to lockdown. But we opened Uniqlo online store. Despite covid, we contacted our online customer,” said Sei.

When the company launched the online store in July 2021, it had a target of 15% of total e-commerce channel activity, which it exceeded.

Most companies in the apparel and lifestyle segments are facing global supply chain headwinds that have made it more expensive to manufacture and move products around the world.

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