The Outlook of the Retail Fashion Industry Post Covid- Then and Now Now that the lockdown is being lifted in phases, the retail fashion segment is looking at complete restoration of its pre-COVID glory. Here's mapping the outlook for India's exciting retail fashion industry in a post-COVID world

By Surya Suri

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In 2018, India's vibrant and flourishing retail fashion industry was poised to reach €85 billion by the end of 2022. An amalgamation of international and homegrown labels, the industry was growing at a breakneck pace based on ever-increasing private consumption and aspiration-based purchasing.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the economy, all business trends and forecasts were derailed. In fact, with the nationwide lockdown in India, the retail industry was essentially put on pause mode for almost two months. Now that the lockdown is being lifted in phases, the retail fashion segment is looking at complete restoration of its pre-COVID glory.

Before they can resume operations, though, retail leaders will need to take a deep dive into the various aspects of business like inventory management, cash reserves, shareholder outlook, adoption of technology, and more, in the light of the current crisis. Here's mapping the outlook for India's exciting retail fashion industry in a post-COVID world:

Safety at the top

Since the coronavirus threat is still active, it goes without saying that the safety and health of employees, customers, and other stakeholders will take precedence as retail stores reopen their doors. While health and hygiene were essential for retail stores even in the past, the focus will now be more than ever before.

Retailers will need to adhere to the new safety norms laid down by the government. Masks, gloves, face shields, and other personal protective gear should become the staple apparel for anyone who sets foot inside the store.

Footfalls will have to be regulated in the interest of social distancing and brands will need to be proactive in this measure. Constant disinfection and sanitization will be required to ensure that the spread is contained within the premises.

Leveraging technology

From infrared thermometers to remote working, technology has played a major role in the COVID-19 crisis. For fashion retail brands that are looking to boost their presence and revenue amid the new normal, technology can become an absolute saviour. For instance, brands can use tech-led systems to enable appointment-based shopping. In doing so, they can regulate the number of customers in the store at any given point.

Brands will also increase the use of digital tools to reach out to customers in an impactful and interactive manner. Additionally, since window shopping at malls will no longer be possible, brands will need to adopt online platforms - which brings us to the next, and perhaps the most crucial point.

Going online

In a world where physical presence will be minimal, online shopping will undoubtedly take center-stage. While many brands were already present online before the outbreak, now will be the time for explosive growth in online shopping. But, creating an online presence will come with its own set of challenges for retail fashion brands.

In the past, customers did not completely trust online shopping, especially for apparel. They preferred getting a look and feel of the product before making the final payment. Now, customer preferences are set to take a 360-degree turn, and brands will need to win customer trust by ensuring the high quality of products.

With this, brands will also need to be more descriptive about their products on their websites or social media handles. It will also bode well for brands to encourage and pay close attention to customer feedback in order to make an unparalleled place in their customers' preference list.

Additionally, in a bid to uphold customer convenience levels, brands will have to revisit their delivery process, making it more hassle-free and quick. Since returns and exchanges are a big part of online fashion sales, brands will have to pay more attention to properly treating returned items, making them safe for further sale.

Communication is key

At a time when panic is rampant, clear and concise communication has become more important than ever before. At the very outset of reopening, retail fashion brands will be expected to reassure their customers that all safety precautions are being taken. This will be an essential step towards regaining customer confidence and bringing them back after the unprecedented break.

Brand communication, therefore, will play a vital role in this new era. Building consumer trust and ensuring their safety must be pioneered by the entire industry. To bring shoppers back and revive the industry's previously remarkable growth curve, there is simply no other option.

Surya Suri

Founder, Steele Collection

Surya Suri is the founder of Steele, a premium men’s clothing brand, devised to elevate the style quotient of Indian men to an unprecedented level.

Surya is an emerging entrepreneur with a keen eye for picking up the pulse in advancements of the fashion industry.  He has an extensive experience in handling clients from various parts of the world, catering to Indian as well global standards. Being an ex-model himself he has a flair towards fashion and Steele is a result of that.

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