Rise of Asian fashion brands and online retail

The ceasing of ops predominantly occurs in Western fashion brands

by ASILA JALIL/ pic by TMR

ASIAN brands are making headway in the global market in the middle of downturn faced by several fashion brands globally.

The recent bankruptcy filing by fast-fashion retailer, Forever 21, made waves across the media due to the major global downsizing the company is taking.

The California-based retailer which has 815 stores in 57 countries will close up to 350 stores from 40 countries.

Sunway Malls and Theme Parks CEO Chan Hoi Choy (picture) said the decline in fashion brands should be viewed in totality as it does not apply to all.

He said the ceasing of operations predominantly occurs in Western fashion brands, while Asian brands are emerging and setting footprints globally amid the downturn.

“On the other side of the equation, you will see the rise of Asian fashion brands, particularly driven by Japanese, South Korean and Chinese brands. We are at the cusp of the rise of Asian brands,” Chan told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

“We foresee China fashion brands will be the next to make inroads beyond their home country. For example, China’s HLA fashion wear had made inroads into our market just a few years ago.

“China’s version of Zara, Urban Revivo, has also garnered traction and begun penetrating into international city markets like London, Bangkok and Singapore. We see more of these Chinese brands becoming go-to places in due time,” he said.

He also noted that the online shopping industry will expand but the line separating it from offline shopping has blurred over the years as there has been a convergence of both, where brands have moved to conquer both domains.

“Offline brands like H&M, Adidas, Uniqlo and others have online stores, while online brands like Christy Ng and FashionValet have opened up physical stores.

“Just because more people are buying online doesn’t mean that there is a decrease socialisation in malls. We believe fashion retailers are re-inventing themselves in malls environment by taking advantage of one aspect online doesn’t offer, which is the ability to touch and feel the products,” he added.

Evidently, Chan said Sunway Malls have shown an increase of customers between a rangebound of 10% and 15%.

“Part of this is the growing significance of out-of-home dining and demand for leisure and wellness. More of our spaces today are leased to these two trade categories, which combined can be over 50% of the malls’ net lettable area,” said Chan.

Among other notable Western fashion brands that have filed for bankruptcy over the years are Diesel in 2019, BCBG Max Azria and Payless Inc, both in 2017.

Noting the transition among buyers towards online shopping, Swedish brand H&M Group said it is continually integrating its digital and physical channels to enhance customer experience.

It is also developing new features which include services aimed at sustainability and reuse.

H&M group head of communications Kristina Stenvinkel said the group is positive of the change which occurs globally across all industries and has been working with sustainability for many years.

“We have developed a very robust sustainability strategy over more than 20 years with ambitious goals and roadmaps. We take this very seriously and we are in it for the long run.

“We regard sustainability key to long-term business success,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said e-commerce has been the top choice among consumers today due to the price difference between online and offline platforms.

“In fact, the B40 are among the avid users of e-commerce, perhaps due to the favourable price differential with goods that are sold in the physical store,” he said.

He, however, said some physical stores have to reinvent themselves over the years.

“Therefore, it is a question of how the physical or traditional stores capitalise the full potential of digitalisation. Food delivery services such as FoodPanda are perhaps leveraging on digital to expand their market reach,” he said, adding that the weak economy and rising cost of living may also deter consumers from spending excessively.