The innerwear category has broadened from being a basic requirement to designer wear with emphasis on styling and comfort. According to a Technopak report, the innerwear category is currently estimated to be worth Rs.25,034 crores and accounts for 8 percent of the total apparel market in India. And, the women’s innerwear segment has grown in the recent years and estimated to be worth Rs.16, 259 crores in 2016 and accounts for 5 percent of the total apparel market. The category will grow at a CAGR of 14 percent to reach Rs. 31,306 crores in 2021 and Rs.60,277 crores in 2026. The women’s innerwear or the lingerie growth story in India is at its most promising phase right now with increasing demand for stylish, sensuous and premium innerwear. The Indian lingerie is no more a hush- hush segment but a more evolved one which has attracted a large number of women openly demanding for the most attractive and innovative piece with uber confidence. This has also given the brands an opportunity to play with designs, cuts, colours, styles, etc.
“According to data from the consulting firm KPMG, between 2015 and 2020, the mid-premium segment in the women’s innerwear segment is expected to grow the fastest at a CAGR of 22 percent,” informs Smita Murarka, Head-Marketing & E-commerce, Amanté. Lingerie, for the longest period of time, was a staple product with hardly any innovation, but the last few years have seen an unprecedented growth in awareness. However, the market is yet to witness the revolution it needs. Neha Kant, Founder & CRO, Clovia, says, “While the overall apparel is growing at 8-9 percent CAGR, lingerie is pegged to grow anywhere between 15-22 percent annually. The current market is still so nascent that the top 10 brands put together are not even addressing 8 percent of the overall market. It’s a market with enormous potential, waiting to be tapped.”
Not only are international brands trying to grab a pie in the market share, but domestic and national brands too are pulling up their socks, or rather ‘underpants’, to tap this market by offering stylish and trendy innerwear. Karan Behal, Founder & CEO, PrettySecrets, maintains, “The lingerie market in India can be classified in luxury, premium, mid-market and mass market segment. The major share of lingerie market is held by the mid-market segment. The premium and the luxury markets are growing at double the rate in comparison to the middle segment. With the retail environment getting more sophisticated and offering the best buying experience to the consumers, the premium and super premium segments will get support for further growth.”
Factors Driving Growth
Research shows that in volume terms, women’s lingerie segment holds a 52 percent share of the total innerwear market in India. In value terms, the women’s lingerie segment holds a 66 percent share of the total innerwear market, thereby enjoying a higher Average Selling Price (ASP) as compared to the men’s innerwear market. Bras and panties contribute to 85 percent of the total women’s lingerie segment. In 2015, this segment was estimated to be worth Rs.14,000 crores and is expected to reach Rs.30,000 crores by 2020,” informs Karan Behal. So, what exactly is driving this growth? A report by Wazir Advisors maintains that an Indian woman now keeps about eight brassiere compared with 5-6 pieces in the past. The number of panties in her wardrobe has almost doubled to 10, it said. “Media, awareness towards fashion and health is driving the customers to demand more. Couple it with the rising youth population, rise of women spenders, increasing disposable income and a need for more solution based approach – and you have the perfect recipe for growth in segment. This is also the best time to innovate in product as the customer is far more demanding and aware than they ever were,” says Neha Kant from Clovia. The modern woman is increasingly working and stepping out of homes in diverse career options. These evolved women need more evolved wardrobe solutions and therefore need for multiple types of lingerie has become inevitable. Agrees Smita Murarka, “For the evolving Indian woman, social media have been key change drivers to make informed choices. Social media has helped in educating the consumer on benefits of good lingerie.” While Karan Behal opines that factors like “growth in income level, preference for recognizable brands and rapid growth of organized retail” is anticipated to increase the share of the organized lingerie market in the next three years.
The Online Game
E-commerce has been a game changer or rather a boon for this category. The consumption in the category has grown multi-fold with the privacy being offered by online retail. Neha Kant affirms, “Considering the awkwardness most women feel while going and buying lingerie from physical stores, manned by salesmen, online shopping is a much better way to buy lingerie. It allows you to shop from your comfort zone and also allows you to browse through various styles and designs. We, at Clovia, also provide options like the ‘fit test’ that helps one calculate the right size. With easy returns and exchange policies available, first try and then buy problem is also solved. The fact that online portals are providing specialised products which are not available at all offline stores also attracts consumers.” A lot many brands have gone ahead to have a tie-up with online giants like Flipkart, Myntra, etc., and many have even launched their own online portal.
Also, many customers select the style and brand online and visit the nearby lingerie store or any of the large format stores to have a first- hand experience and then buy the product. This has led many lingerie brands to enter into omni- channel retail. Karan Behal from PrettySecrets, asserts, “There is a gap in the market that presents opportunity for an online approach to capitalize on strong supply chains, offering depth and breadth of inventory and already established understanding of consumers buying behaviour and demographics. And to fill that gap, PrettySecrets is creating an omni-channel distribution model, where we are available across varied points-of-sale, depending on the consumer’s preferred choice of format.”
Relevance of Character Licensing
Character and entertainment licensing is one of the largest segments of the licensing business, and is probably the part most recognized by the general public. Smita Murarka from Amanté quips, “It does provide for an interesting opportunity to develop a new line of products, however the brand must be careful to choose the character based on the positioning of the brand and the strength of the character in the market.” For brands, it aids in enhancing the image of a product line and generate interest in it due to its association with a character. The concept of character licensing in lingerie is quite nascent in India and needs to evolve as it has in the US and Europe. Neha Kant says, “Character licensing or merchandising is a popular trend in other parts of the world. Be it the association of angels for Victoria's Secret or a popular face like Bella Hadid for Dior, the success of these brands speaks volume about this technique called character licensing. But character licensing is not just a case of throwing two properties together and waiting for the money to roll in. Matching up the characters and the product profile is a precise science – the key is to ensure that they complement one another and communicate the right message.”
Fabric and Technology
For innerwear, cotton has been the king since time immemorial. But with advancements and inclination towards more trendy styles, there has been good growth for other fabrics including linen, nylon, etc. Karan Behal says, “The fiber and materials market continues to develop and grow around the globe, with new technology, innovations and new fabrics being introduced in the market all the time. The journey of lingerie started from cotton, linen and then nylon revolutionized the intimate wear market in early years. Women became accustomed to the many benefits of nylon: its stretch, comfort, durability, easy care and stain resistance, were all seen as great benefits. But in 2017, the intimate wear sector has completely changed with much wider range of fabrics, including both natural and synthetic fibers. You have an array of fabrics to choose from – satin, modal, silk, spandex, rayon, lace, mesh, polyamide, power net, etc. In terms of style, intimate wear market has had a huge leap. Underwired, strapless, push-ups, bralettes, front open, convertible are few styles widely accepted and bought.” According to Smita Murarka, microfiber is the new favourite as it has high stretchability and doesn’t lose shape.
The lingerie market is witnessing trends in terms of fabric design, finish application, introduction of wider colour choices and fitting. Karan Behal says, “As a fashion statement and ‘feel incredible’ factor, lingerie is gaining more and more significance among Indian audience. Innerwear today makes a big difference to a woman’s wardrobe. Lingerie buying choices are now more about feeling and being empowered. The younger generation today is more confident of themselves and are not afraid to experiment with colours, cuts and designs. This means a greater emphasis on rich fabrics, laces, embroideries and brighter, more daring colours. At PrettySecrets, we don’t have whites, we have geo-pop prints, colours and new designs. Our campaign #RedefineBasics is all about throwing the whites and the dull, boring lingerie out and experimenting with colours, prints and designs.” The Indian women are now letting go of their inhibitions and keen on trying different styles other than the regular whites and blacks in lingerie. “Consumers are constantly evolving in their tastes and preferences. While the basics of nude and black are must haves in any lingerie wardrobe, the younger consumer is more experimental and loves variety, ranging from colourful choices to experimenting with prints and different textures,” clarifies Smita Murarka from Amanté.
Also, India has become more open to paying for quality and value- added products than ever before. “A survey study by BCG conducted in 2016 suggests that 30 percent of consumers in India are willing to spend more on products that they perceive are “better”—a much higher percentage than is found in more developed markets such as the US, Germany, and the UK. In apparel and intimate wear segment, affluent consumers spend 5 times more than they use to in the last 5 years,” says Karan Behal.
The In- Thing
From a basic brassier to one specially designed for a t-shirt, blouse, etc., the category is expanding. Challenging the traditional blacks and whites, bright and pop colours have barged into the lingerie closets of Indian women, and so has Superman print. “From luxurious velvet bras to sultry lace bodysuits, the top trends for 2018 would include geo-pop prints, pop colours, embroidered lingerie, camisoles, floral appliques, strappy bras, trendy sports bras and chemise,” informs Karan Behal. According to Neha Kant from Clovia, “The innerwear-as-outerwear trend is becoming popular with time. And with this “show off” your lingerie trend, there is also a rise in innerwear designs being influenced by ready-to-wear trends. From bodysuits as tops to night-gown slips as dresses, you'll find lingerie being worn in interesting ways. Pastels have become quite popular this season and blush is reigning supreme when it comes to lingerie, so be on the lookout for blush panties, blush garters and blush dressing robes.”
In terms of elements/ embellishments being used in innerwear, Smita Murarka informed that lace, crochet, jacquard fabric are the quintessential favourite. Shimmer and shine fabrics are perfect for the festive season. Additional detailing like charms, bows, contrast straps add a personalized element of style to every item of lingerie. Further, Karan Behal added that elements like metal rings, chains, leather straps, etc. too are in trend. The top colours in-vogue for the forthcoming season include classic green, fiery red, magenta, virtual pink, lime punch, electric blue and purple berry.
Franchising It Away
Franchising is a tested business model in the retail sector globally, and the innerwear industry offers big opportunity to franchisors as well as the brands. Karan Behal says, “With intimate wear market close to disruption, franchising is a great option to accelerate expansion for retail concept. Expansion of your business through franchising is an economic way to grow business and brand, without the additional pressure on your working capital. Another added advantage of franchising is the ability to reach tier -II and -III cities and bring local partners aboard who understand their market better than any company would.” Smita Murarka shared a similar view and said that “franchising is a great option to bring in regional expertise and investments for operational efficiency, while the brand can focus on its core strength of product and marketing”.