Wish list: shopping and retail therapy

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February 22, 2010
Why is the apparel industry down in Lahore?
March 9, 2010

Recession and tight budgeting kept the shoppers away By Fareeha Qayoom

Recession and tight budgeting kept the shoppers away

By Fareeha Qayoom

L

ast weekend (or was it the weekend before the last?) we decided to browse all the sales at the Y commercial sector, DHA…One place we stopped by was – Ideas by Gul Ahmed. We explored all the floors, looking at pillows, pillowcases, beds-in-a-bag, sheet sets and of course, apparel. There was one leather jacket with embroidery on sleeves and front that caught my eye – the price was PKR 2800.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t in my size. Hmmm. The only thing we bought on sale? Pillow cases, 3 sets for PKR 200 apiece. Not a bad deal. But that was it. We decided to check out Chen One before buying any more stuff. The medium sized bath towels were PKR 180 on sale. I forget the price of pillows – I think those were for PKR 540 per unit. For a sale at a major store, there was hardly any crowd. A few couples and families were browsing which is normal for non-sales days too.

DILO 2 - Sheets - Big
Photo by Andrew Coulter Enright

We also visited Levi’s – as usual, they didn’t have my size – there was a nice blend of winter casual/sport clothes. I might have bought a couple of items if they had my size but what the heck, it was worth a browse. Unfortunately, there was hardly anyone around browsing or buying any of the stock on offer.

There is a shoe shop right next to Levi’s store – Charles and Keith (hopefully, this is their correct name, I am not sure I remember it correctly)…pretty collection of shoes but way too expensive or was it that since we didn’t need shoes, it didn’t appeal to our impulse buying instincts? There was a little crowd of women there. At least, the atmosphere here was a bit festive – you know, a crowd of people browsing the place for bargains…the discounts were for 10-30 percent on original prices.

The next stop was Next Store – the sale was already over. I had a good browse checking out the new stock. There was hardly any customer. The best time to browse. There was more petite sized stock in store. Quite a few smart new fashion knit tops, business casual woven blouses and tops, jeans, dress pants and one summer jacket in floral print. Unfortunately, the new stock didn’t have all sizes – size 16, size 12 and size 10 seemed to be missing in a few styles. The basic tee range was missing too…sigh. (I suggested to the sales person to stock up more items at the backend in their best selling sizes so a complete size set is on display at all times. This is only common sense.) It looked kind of weird, not having all sizes in stock.

levi's
Photo by reynardkarman

We also stopped by at Bareeze – bought a few nice pieces of Chicken Kari fabrics in white and peach colors. Unfortunately, I don’t like their two-tone embroidery designs. For me, their classic self color embroideries are still a hot favorite. However, stock is limited in their tried and true classic designs, which is unfortunate.

If I was a buyer for these retailers in Lahore, Pakistan – my first priority would be creating a basic and fashion line for every season. Unfortunately, the buyers usually do not stock up a basic line. This seems be missing at most places and strangely enough, the basics are usually the hot-seller items. The fashion line comes and goes as it depends on the current fads.

  • Basic Knit tops – I wish there were more crewneck, scoop-neck and polo knit tops every season in short sleeve, ¾ sleeve and long sleeve in tunic length for both summer and winter seasons. This basic key item usually serves as a shell under jacket or a stand-alone top. Modesty is key for a Muslim sensibility. Just because women feel comfortable wearing western silhouettes, it doesn’t mean, they wouldn’t mind more modest options than on offer…that’s the only beef I have with Next knit tops – they are always short sleeve, with lower necklines than comfortable and comparatively in a shorter length. I, for example, don’t tuck my tops in. I would love to stock up long sleeve knit tops in summer weight with modest necklines and tunic lengths! Unfortunately, they are never in stock in summers. Even in winters, there were only black and white options in basic long sleeve crew necks. I bought both. Have a heart -I would love some fashion colors too! The polo seems to be missing for women’s line altogether. I only saw it at Reebok. (PKR 1000 per unit).Unfortunately, the length was a bit short.
  • Lack of summer blazers and jackets – not all Muslim women like wearing scarves or stoles over western silhouettes or knit tops – I don’t. I have been looking for summer jackets (in light-weight fabrics) for ages…you know, there is such thing as air conditioning so dressing in layers for summer is not far- fetched either. Finally, I decided to get mine custom made, (unfortunately, this experiment is still in process, I have commissioned two designers, both are taking their sweet time over the first sample! Will keep you posted if this pans out…! The cost seems to be atrocious too!)
  • Missing basic silhouettes – just because skinny jeans are the current fad, doesn’t mean all the jeans stock has to be skinny. I bought one pair and that was enough for me. This season, Next stores forgot to stock up on boot cut, wide leg, flare, straight and tapered silhouettes. As you know, I am a jean girl and I keep stocking up my jean collection, unfortunately, I could find only one pair in straight leg and nothing else. Wide leg and flares were missing altogether with only 2-3 basic tints available in boot cut. I was extremely disappointed. They should have basic silhouettes in stock at all times. As you know, timeless fashion means you wear what suits your shape and lifestyle. The buyer at Next Stores seemed to forget that they should be stocking up basic silhouettes every season.
  • Business suits and separates – there was only one business suit on offer this season – in some black texture. On sale, it costs 5k at 50 percent discount. They should also stock up a few basic suit options with separate and coordinate options – for summer and winters. You know summer and winter jackets that can be teamed up with same colors or worn as a contrast color. There were no such options available.
  • Shoes and bags – this is the only area well covered in most stores. However, I wish they would give more options in flat shoes variety. There is only limited stock and for some reason, basic silhouettes are not repeated. Basic colors and successful designs should be repeated for every season. This is one mistake accessory designers make every season too – this includes Stylo, ECS and Zaka.

The buyers for these retailers forget basic wardrobe needs steady replenishment. For example, my favorite basic tees in pink (I bought two for precisely this reason!) have shrunk in couple of seasons; one has a stain at the hem. Now, I want to stock up some more tees in basic and fashion colors but Next Stores do not have it in stock anymore – they were also missing white and black which was a major bummer. They had only fashion tops in stock for the new season.

Consumers might buy what’s in fashion right now to keep their wardrobe current but classic and basic silhouettes never go out of style. In times of recession and budgeting, most people prefer replenishing their basic wardrobes instead of going after the latest fad.

By the way, there was hardly any crowd in any of the stores. Retail seems to be down in this town too! I guess, “Money is too tight to mention!”•

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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Tkfr.com and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.

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