After two years of Covid-induced lull, consumers are back to the stores, splurging on clothes, bags and beauty products. When it comes to festive spending, inflation does not seem to be coming in the way of consumer spending. The demand is broad-based and keeping in line with the trend that has been observed in the recent past, tier two and three cities are growing faster than their metro counterparts. “A lot of people from the non-metros who earlier were subscribers of unorganised brands are now coming to branded stores. The aspiration levels are increasing, branded products are selling more. Conversion of unorganised to organised is a very big movement happening across the fashion industry,” says Devarajan Iyer, executive director and CEO at Lifestyle. The company that runs about 86 stores across the country has seen footfalls touching 90%-95% of the pre-pandemic levels. “The basket sizes have increased 7-8% compared to pre-Covid. We are seeing more items in the same basket…consumers are coming to stores,” says Iyer.

With East India getting dolled up for Durga Puja and some other pockets for Navaratri, retail sales are already thriving. Young fashion brand FabAlley & Indya has so far recorded a sales growth of 45% in the East over the same (festive) period last year. Atul Chachra, Vice President, Retail at FabAlley, expects festive sales in the region to close with a growth of 70% over last year. For Lifestyle, sales from the eastern region in September have already advanced by 35%-40% compared to the pre-pandemic period of September 2019. In fact, consumers are not shying away from making a beeline for the premium line offerings of brands. FabAlley & Indya’s new collection Indya Luxe which comes with a minimum price tag of ₹6,000 and goes up to ₹20,000 is seeing good traction. “There is a clear demand for higher range too, resulting in higher transaction value. We have seen a 25% growth in average transaction value compared to the pre-pandemic times,” says Chachra. “Inflation never plays a spoilsport at the higher end, it hurts the lower end,” says Dilip Kapur, president and founder at Hidesign. For Hidesign, sales across online and offline channels are being driven by the higher-end consumers who are filling their shopping carts despite average ticket sizes for high value products like bags having seen an increase of almost 50%. “The average ticket value for lower end items such as wallets and belts have not seen this growth,” says Kapur.

In the South, shopping for Onam has been brisk. While Lifestyle claims to have seen a double-digit growth in sales during the festivities compared to pre-Covid, store walk-ins for FabAlley & Indya across its stores in Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru have grown 25%. Westside is expecting a surge in demand and footfalls this year. With gifting being a major festive theme, the brand from the Tata Group is focusing on curating gifting solutions. “The lockdown had restricted movement. This year with travel being on top of everyone’s mind, we anticipate a festive season that includes loved ones and friends all getting together,” says head of customer and beauty Umashan Naidoo. Hidesign’s Kapur echoes a somewhat similar sentiment. “The bounce back has been so solid over pre-Covid that if we maintain 30% (growth) over pre-Covid for stores and 70%-80% for online, it would not be surprising,” says Kapur.

Colorbar Cosmetics is estimating a 50% growth in the lip, eye, and face categories this festive season over last year. The brand’s average transaction value stands at about ₹1,550. Store footfalls have already shot up by over 60% compared to last year and the company expects to close the calendar year with ₹200 crore worth of sales. “We have witnessed a positive consumer sentiment, and are hopeful for the revival of the typical upsurge in demand with the festive season round the corner. People are transitioning into their pre-pandemic routines. There is a high demand without much hindrance due to inflation. We are also expecting to increase our overall market share within the online space with the launch of new product categories,” says founder and managing director Samir Modi. Beauty unicorn Nykaa is equally optimistic about the festive season. “We're set to offer shoppers the biggest and most relevant assortment in beauty, fashion, and home, with new and exciting launches. In beauty, categories such as skincare, makeup, hair care, bath & body, and fragrances are expected to be in the spotlight. And in fashion, occasion-wear, party couture, accessories, and home are expected to be driving the buzz,” says a company spokesperson.  

The retail industry which had its share of struggles in the pandemic, imposed upon by intermittent lockdowns, is leveraging social media and celebrity reach to get more customers to the stores. Festivities, largely local in nature, brands are partnering with regional celebrities and influencers to market their brands on social media and crafting online campaigns to connect with young audiences. Lifestyle, for instance, has roped in Bengali actress Mimi Chakraborty for its Durga Puja campaign in West Bengal. We have taken a very regional approach. We have tied up with regional celebrities in different parts of the country and are curating lines in collaboration with these celebrities,” says Iyer.

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