New Delhi: India’s fashion and apparel retailers have started dialling suppliers for the spring and summer collections buoyed by the unexpected bounce-back of retail sales in the festive season after eight months of freezing orders and even cancelling previously ordered merchandise.
“For the last six-seven months virtually nothing was happening. Also, now many of the retailers, who had earlier left the stocks of garments and fabrics on warehouse floors, have now started picking them up,” said Premal Udani, chairman of garment manufacturer Kaytee Corp, which supplies garments to Reliance Retail, Arvind Fashions and Pantaloons, among others. “Now at least there is a movement. We hope by February-March we will be back on track.”

A spurts in sales September onwards has energised fashion retailers and an expectation of a near- full recovery of their business to pre-pandemic levels by March-April is driving them now to rush their orders for the spring-summer collections.

Pandemic-induced lockdowns hurt and slowed businesses for months to less than 30% of pre-pandemic levels. However, some a pick-up after September and buoyed by Diwali shopping in October-November has now catapulted sales for many retailers to 70-85% of last year’s level. So, many of them are hoping to reach a pre-pandemic level in the first quarter of next financial year.

Rishi Vasudev, CEO of Lifestyle department store chain, said he is confident of 90-100% recovery of pre-Covid levels of business by March-April. “Our spring summer orders are, therefore, in line with our business expectations,” he said.

Arvind Fashions, which sells brands including US Polo, Aeropostale and Flying Machine besides other labels, had placed its first set of spring/summer order in September. Now the Bengaluru-based fashion and lifestyle retailer has topped it up with another round of orders in November after gauging improving market conditions.
“Initially we thought the recovery will be about 70% but now we are looking more towards 85-90% in the first quarter next fiscal,” said J. Suresh, managing director of Arvind Fashions that last ordered for winter wear in March, weeks before India the months long lockdowns to curb the spread of the raging Covid-19 kicked in.
Rahul Mehta, chief mentor of Clothing Manufacturers Association of India, said large fashion apparel retailers have started placing some orders and he is hoping the smaller ones will follow suit in the coming months.

“Now we are consistently reaching 70-80% of last year’s (retail) sales,” Mehta said. “I personally had anticipated that it would be February or March before orders would start coming in for fresh production, but it looks it will come earlier. There is definitely more optimism.”

However, there are concerns and suppliers and retailers are hoping against another wave of coronavirus spike in coming months.

“Let us hope the situation sustains and hopefully there will be no new wave as was feared,” said Udani of garment manufacturer Kaytee Corp. “If that happens, it will again go negative. Things are very fluid and can change from week to week.”