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Shopping: The New Frontier

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Kathmandu, May 06, 2016: Shopping experience is under a bit of a makeover here in our country. Slowly but surely, people are going online to buy or at the very least browse through what might just turn out to be their latest purchase. Thus social networking sites have become crucial for the retail business. We spoke to some of the giants of the sector to talk about their experience.

METAPHOR

In reality, Metaphor, the clothing store has been around for only a little more than seven months but their extensive web presence and popularity might fool you into thinking otherwise. In such a short span of time, they have already managed to carve a special niche for themselves. Their clothes are all UK bought and they keenly maintain its quality whilst offering them at an unbelievably low price.  Metaphor’s management shares their philosophy.

What do you think has helped Metaphor stand out from the other stores?
We want Metaphor to be a fast fashion retailer, not yet another boutique shop in Kathmandu. We want to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy the latest trends and the biggest styles at an affordable price. We have new designs coming in every two weeks and there are various discount offers just as frequently. We always move fast, get rid of the remaining stock and make room for the new. I think this is proving to be very popular.

How does your team research the market?

It’s important to keep tab of the trends. Metaphor has three classes: the basics that include some of the high street brands at affordable prices, the premium that ranges from Rs 1,200-2,500 and celebrity wear which brings items seen on the likes of the Kardashians or Alexa Chung. It takes effort to stay atop the changing trends but at the same time, we also give a lot of priority to what our customers want. Interacting with them is perhaps the best research. We actually make it a point to note down their requests, sizes and include it in our next stock.

Not only are your products from the UK, many of Metaphor’s partners and investors reside there as well. So why did you come back to Nepal to open a clothing business?
It’s always nice to have something back home. We wanted to do something here in our country. Besides, we saw an opportunity here. Despite Nepalis being fashion enthusiasts, there aren’t many outlets here that offer quality products. Those who have been to Zara or Forever 21 shops abroad can easily spot the disparity in the quality. So we want to bridge this gap. We had the capability to bring in good quality products at reasonable prices and so we thought why not?

 

SANNA

Your online business was popular, but you still thought it was important to open a physical store as well. Why was that?
These days Facebook and Instagram are integral parts of a retail business. I still work very hard to make sure we maintain a strong presence on the Internet. But for us to grow, I think, it was crucial to have an actual store as well. We were quite popular among my blog’s followers who are mainly teenage girls and their circle but word of mouth can only take you so far. With an actual store, people just randomly walk in while they are in the area. This has really helped bring in more customers.

How has the transition been so far?
It all started with my passion for fashion but obviously that isn’t enough. I have had to learn many things. From logistics such as delivery services to brand management, there are many factors to take care of.
It isn’t like the olden days anymore. It’s not enough to open a shutter and have a few racks of clothes. There is so much competition in the market that you must establish your product’s value. When there are so many options out there, you should give the customer reasons to come to you for your products. So the transition has bought up its fair share of challenges. However, so far, we are coping really well.

What do you think has helped you stay ahead of the competition?
As our slogan goes, our offerings are “not for the ordinary.” We cater to those who like to make statements with their style so in that way we have managed to make our own identity in the market. Then there is the matter of fair pricing, and good services that play a big part. I think these days it is crucial to carry out market research. Further, being aggressive with marketing and networking has also helped. Good PR and presence on the social networking sites cannot be underestimated.

MFASHIONISTA

What began as a foray into fashion photography has culminated into a retail business for Calvin Gurung. With its young team, under the name of Mfashionista, the clothing store is taking giant strides to cover the online and most importantly the overall Nepali market. Unlike most chic outlets, since 2011 Mfashionista has been refreshingly running on a model that is keen to cater to custome

Why did Mfashionista make a conscious decision to cater outside the valley?
Most retailers talk about beating competition but we are not bothered about that. Our sole concern is the customers. We feel we should go where they are and there is a healthy market outside Kathmandu as well. We carried out research on their likes and demands and turns out they are into fast fashion. They don’t put much emphasis on the brands per se, but they do want clothes that are trendy and stylish. So we have developed a model accordingly. Rather than buying, we believe in mass production.

Most outlets talk about how tricky it is to reach customers outside Kathmandu. How has your experience been so far?
Most outlets tend to buy a couple of pieces of clothing for their store but we manufacture our own clothes. We spot the trends our customers fancy and order similar designs in the factory. We always have a minimum of 100 to some 1000 pieces so that automatically reduces the cost issues. Whereas delivery is concerned, we have offices in Dharan that looks after the Eastern region. We have an outlet in Pokhara. In case there is an order from Chitwan, we can make it and get it till Bharatpur airport. We make a real effort to reach our clients but they will need to understand that the cost will be slightly higher.

What drives Mfashionista to keep going?
We are working for more than just profits. Mfashionista is an extension of my love for art and photography. Ultimately, we would like to give Nepalis a local brand that they can rely on and be proud of. Spain has Zara, London has Topshop, and USA has Gap. Ultimately, we would like to be synonymous with such fast fashion brands in Nepal too.