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FASHION-ABLE?

India’s top online fashion retailers recovered from the damage of last year, but 2021 won’t be easy

A vendor arranges clothes at his roadside shop in Kochi
Reuters/Sivaram V
Online shopping locking it down.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published

India’s two largest fashion e-commerce firms took a hit and made a solid recovery in 2020.

Walmart-owned Myntra and Mukesh Ambani’s Ajio saw a dip in reach when the nationwide lockdown started in March last year. Not only did people stay at home with no option to socialise or attend office, but there were supply constraints and deliveries slowed down.

However, the festive season in India delivered, and both the players surpassed pre-Covid reach by the end of the year, data from market intelligence firm Kalagato show.

In a normal year, fashion sales are driven by travel, office wear, general social engagements, sporting activities, festivals, and weddings. “The first three got completely wiped, sportswear just became athleisure, so brands were heavily relying on the festival and wedding market to give sales a boost,” Kalagato noted in its report. “This typically happens (in India) around September. And to some extent, that’s stayed true.”

While tech-savvy youngsters still comprised the largest share of buyers, older customers also came on board in the pandemic year, Kalagato said. Myntra shoppers in the 45-plus age group increased by 12% over the course of 2020. Ajio, meanwhile, saw this cohort grow a massive 98%. Orders from tier 2 and 3 cities have grown manifold for both companies, too.

Buying from Myntra and Ajio

Browsing rates, assessed by monthly active users (MAUs), followed a similar pattern for both players. By December, nearly 60% of Ajio and Myntra app users were opening the apps at least once each month.

“Keep in mind this is harder for Myntra to do given that they operate at a much larger base and e-commerce has few network effects,” Kalagato noted. Myntra owns several private labels and has a much larger portfolio than Ajio.

Myntra, which has been around since 2007, also had Ambani’s five-year-old company beat when it comes to transactions before the coronavirus outbreak. The percentage of customers who transacted on Myntra was nearly four times that of Ajio in January 2020.

By December, though, both players converged. ‘The even-ing out of order patterns and loss of momentum is a direct result of the lockdown,” Kalagato’s report said.

While the recovery looks good on paper, there have been struggles.

In the months following the lockdown, companies have had to offer huge discounts to boost sales. They even began levying additional fees on low-value orders to stay afloat. Besides, there is the logistical nightmare of deliveries as returns have had to be quarantined for 48 hours.

With a raging second wave of cases as well as curfews and lockdowns, it remains to be seen whether the two behemoths—and the online fashion retail industry they represent—will be brought down to their knees again.

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