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Retailing in India: The Art of Trade Showmanship

The high demand for branded fashion beyond Indian metros has corporate retail businesses paying more attention to their partners to increase market penetration




Fashion consciousness is rapidly spreading past Indian metros in step with the growth of the young working-class segment, which is expected to dominate at 64 percent of the national population by 2020 (source: This is driving the growth of the Indian retail market from $490 billion USD presently to a projected $865 billion USD by 2023. The impact of this is the expected growth in the share of corporatized apparel retail from 19 percent in 2013 to a predicted 24 percent by 2023.

Currently, with just 15 percent of corporate retail businesses located in metropolitan areas, many brands have developed large networks of franchisees and multi-brand retail partners to reach one million more outlets (source: Technopak). To address challenges in delivering consistent brand experiences and product availability across chain stores, network partners are invited to bi-annual, b2b “fashion trade shows,” one for each fashion season. Here they’re treated to experiential product presentations in branded environments using compelling retail design and visual merchandising techniques. Here are a few fashion companies that take the art of trade showmanship seriously. 


Arvind Fashions Ltd., a leading fashion group in India, offers a diverse portfolio, such as its Bridge-to-Luxury Division (Gap, Nautica and Gant), Lifestyle Brands Division (U.S. Polo Assn, Flying Machine, Ed Hardy, True Blue, The Children’s Place), Heritage Brands Division (Arrow, Aéropostale, Izod), The Arvind Store and multi-brand concepts like Sephora and The Unlimited. Today, the company has a turnover of $677 Million USD from over 1400 exclusive stores and 1500 shop-in-shops in departments stores across 200 cities in India (source: Money Control).

With 65 percent of this revenue coming from retail partners, the importance given to trade showmanship is high. The Heritage Brands Division recently showcased about 1400 products from Arrow, Aéropostale and Izod to about 1000 dealers from across India at a trade show. The 8000-square-foot experiential environment of branded shop-in-shops was designed and delivered in 30 days.

Retailing in India: The Art of Trade Showmanship



Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd. (ABFRL), with revenues of $1.08 Billion USD, has a network of 2500 brand stores, presence in 14,000 multi-branded environments and more than 400 department stores across India (source: ABFRL Annual report, FY18). Its portfolio consists of 11 brands, such as Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Van Heusen, Peter England, People, Simon Carter, Hackett, American Eagle, Collective, Forever 21 and Ted Baker.

Bi-annual trade shows showcase new offerings presented in inspiring environments that reflect the ethos of each brand. Recently, formal brand Louis Philippe celebrated 30 years in India in a trade show display, spread over 7000 square feet and featuring more than 2000 products presented to roughly 650 retail partners from across India. The innovative design and presentation concepts were conceptualized in 10 days and executed in 12.

Retailing in India: The Art of Trade Showmanship


Blackberrys, a strong Indian player in mens’ formal and smart casual wear, retails in three styles – formals, casuals and urban – that generate a turnover of $136 million USD from more than 240 exclusive stores and 1000-plus multi-brand and department stores (source: ETRetail). Its bi-annual trade shows are visited 750-plus dealers contributing close to 26 percent of the company’s business. The recent Autumn/Winter Trade Show was spread over 21,000 square feet, presenting about 5200 options from all of its brands in an engaging environment. All of the design and visual merchandising concepts presented here, to be used in theirs stores in the coming season, were designed in about 45 days and set up in one week.


Retailing in India: The Art of Trade Showmanship


Raymond Group, an Indian fabric and garment retailer, offers a portfolio of brands, such as Raymond, Raymond Premium Apparel, Park Avenue, Ethnix, ColorPlus and Parx. Its retail network is spread across 700 stores and 4000 multi-brand outlets in more than 200 cities in India and overseas. Its hand-spun and hand-weave inspired fabrics are retailed from 30,000 suppliers across 400 towns in India.

Raymond’s 2018 Annual Report reveals revenues of $906 million USD, of which 18 percent is contributed from overseas. For its recent Autumn/Winter 2019 Trade Show, spread across 58,000 square feet, the largest in the industry, featured approximately 20,000 products, 3-D printed accessories and a digitized DIY service. The environment was conceptualized as a seamless cluster of experiential brand stores, designed and implemented in just 45 days.  

Retailing in India: The Art of Trade Showmanship

Branded fashion retail in India has penetrated only 17 percent of the total market (as per global analytics firm CRISIL ratings), leaving a huge market of opportunity open. Challenged with high occupation and operating costs, the most viable method brands are increasingly using to expand their retail footprint is developing retail partners equipped to operate past metros. This is expected to push the boundaries of the art of trade showmanship higher, and in turn, translate into enhanced consumer experiences in Indian retail environments. 


Surender has more than two decades of experience in the Indian retail industry in retail strategy, store design, planning and development, retail marketing, visual merchandising, writing and academia. He’s held senior positions at leading retailers like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, Mahindra Retail and as a senior retail consultant working with leading retailers and brands in India. Reach him at [email protected].



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