Irrespective of high food prices and soaring utility bills, the passion to wear new lawn suits every year among rich and upper-income females is growing, forcing manufacturers and designers to bring innovative designs and dazzling colours to successfully compete with one another.
However, women belonging to lower-income groups usually compromise on replica suits or cheaper lawn pieces as they cannot afford the more expensive branded lawns and suits.
In March 2020, Covid-19 hit the country, resulting in the shut down of markets for one to two months but it did not affect the sales of lawn manufacturers as consumers fully availed online buying facilities which resulted in long delays in delivery.
The 2021 lawn season started in March amid the presence of the pandemic and the closure of a few markets and schools to avert a possibly disastrous third wave. The availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the government’s effort to ensure countrywide vaccination of the entire population has provided mental satisfaction for the people but the lawn business is unlikely to lose its charm as long as the online buying option exists.
CEO Bonanza Garments Industries (BGI) Hanif Bilwani says the summer lawn collection 2021 is at its peak level right now. Customers will continue to purchase lawn. “However, we foresee the market will become price sensitive soon. With an estimated growth of around five to six per cent, customers will continue to purchase lawn,” he hopes.
On the impact of Covid-19 on lawn business in 2020, he said retail business, especially of the lawn brand, experienced good online sales. However, due to limited access of retailers to e-commerce channels and customer apprehension of online purchases, there were stocks of unsold inventory despite the contribution from online channels.
‘With an estimated growth of around 5-6pc, consumers are expected to continue purchasing suits’
To a query over the price hike of lawn given the record high rates of cotton, polyester, reports of yarn shortage and its massive price hike, Mr Bilwani said that during this pandemic, “we are one of the few brands that have not increased our prices. In fact, we have reduced our profit margins to facilitate the customers while some major players have increased their prices considerably.”
When asked whether buyers had moved towards low-priced lawns due to the rising cost of living owing to soaring utility bills and food prices, Bonanza CEO replied that with the drastic change in buying patterns, “we feel customers are more attracted to lower prices now than ever before. Following this trend, Bonanza Satrangi has also lowered its prices to a great extent.”
It has been observed that people go for unbranded lawns and suits but end up suffering owing to quality issues. On this point, he said: “low prices are a way to entice consumers but the quality is definitely compromised, which is why most customers suffer.”
When asked whether higher discounts on fabrics and readymade lawn suits mean that lower-priced fabric has been used or that the discounts are eyewash to lure buyers, he said discounts do not mean low-quality fabric. Season end sales help liquidate stocks, while Bonanza ensures that there is no difference in quality.
On new trends in the lawn segment, he said over the past year, “we have noticed an increase in demand for embroidered outfits and ready-to-wear suits.”
He said the company is offering a product line called Alive, which caters to the fashion needs of a younger generation. “This has helped us broaden our customer spectrum and boost sales in our pret wear category.”
Mr Bilwani estimates that the total market stands at 20 million suits and his company’s share is around 15pc. Regarding the number of lawn makers and the market potential to see more players, he said every year new brands enter the fashion industry; some
are able to carve a sustainable niche for their brand while others find it very difficult to survive in this highly competitive market. There seems to be a 10-15pc growth in this area.
Designers and celebrities are coming up with their products in collaboration with different textile mills. When asked whether Bonanza feel threatened to lose the market share, he said “our products are usually targeted towards masses, while designer lawn brands cater to a niche market and cannot be considered a direct threat.”
It has been observed that all the lawn makers offer discounts simultaneously every year. This cannot be called healthy competition as prices of unstitched fabric and readymade suits of most of the manufacturers are almost at par with each other. When asked to elaborate on the above as to what buyers are gaining from this practice of giving discounts, Mr Bilwani said “we believe in providing top quality products at a discounted rate as an opportunity to attract potential customers that will eventually become brand loyalists as a result.”
To another query whether Bonanza is making lawn fabric or it is procuring fabric from other sources, he said “our company is procuring fabric from other sources.”
On a thriving replica lawn market and the possibility of Bonanza’s replica suits or fabric in the markets, he said, “there is a huge market for replicas in Pakistan and our brand is no exception. Yes, we are aware of the fact that our branded replicas are sold and sometimes when the threat is huge, we do take action to address the issue.” On market reports that replica lawn suits or fabrics are produced by the same branded mills as their ‘second’ products to cover up their sales, he said “No, this is not true.”
On Satrangi’s lawn export prospects to India, he said, “our branded products are sourced out to the Middle Eastern region and India via their own designated agents, whereby the products are purchased and exported further.”
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, January 22nd, 2021