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The New Wave Of Retail Revolution In Dhaka

In last two months Dhaka has seen more retail brands to launch than entire year. Epyllion has launched their signature clothing brand Sailor. Umber Lifestyle has launched multiple stores. Yellow has taken themselves to a whole new level by opening stores in multiple locations. Noir, Aarong and Grameen Uniqlo have also taken part in this new wave by opening stores in new locations. This is a very likely move from these brands. For a city of 20 million people, you need many places to go.

But what this new wave of retail revolution means for retail clothing industry in Bangladesh? Not much actually. As Bangladesh market is becoming more mature day by day these developments are rather linear. If you look at the progression closely you will be surprised to see how myopic most of these brands are. Except Aarong most of these brands failed to take full advantage of a retail store.

All road leads to clothing

One dominant trend in retail industry is of course, majority of these brands are clothing focused. We have major retail clothing brands like Catseye, Rich Man, Pride, Easy, Monsoon Rain, Silver Rain, Lubnan, and the list continues. Many of these brands have strong market positioning and going strong. All these brands can be put into two separate categories: chain retail brands i.e. Grameen Uniqlo, Yellow, Catseye, Arong, Easy, now Sailor etc and small retail brands. The math is simple: while big ones enjoy the advantage of scale, small ones face the problem of extinction.

Retail to go strong but will it be only clothing?

Retail has a good future in Bangladesh, even globally retail is coming back from a short dip it experienced lately. However, it is proven by now that retails business is here to stay and in Bangladesh retail will remain dominant in years to come. Although there is an ecommerce surge going on but it is unlikely for ecommerce to take over retail in near future, if at all. I think, there is a complimentary potential: a convergence between retail and ecommerce in coming years.

However, one thing is for sure: only clothing focused retail brand would face difficult time. It is already evident with small brands. We have seen many clothing retail shops to die due to competition. Big ones will face the same fate if they can’t look far and beyond. There are only too many people to buy cloths.

Small is not new big

Scale is an advantage when it comes to pricing, promotion and all. Chain retail brands like Catseye, Easy, and Sailor will have definite advantage over small retailers when it comes to pricing and brand recognition and loyalty. It means many of the small brands we see will no more in business in next few years of time.

Dying in Dhaka

Dhaka is a big market, 20 million people, that’s undeniable but it does not mean Dhaka is the Bangladesh. We have a big market out of Dhaka and purchasing power of people of other major cities is also on the rise. There are apparent reasons why people start in Dhaka: it gives visibility, Dhaka is a big market with a growing higher middle class, but the amount of competition in Dhaka just does not make it worth pursuing. New brands can try and experiment outside Dhaka. It is much less expensive to start anything outside of Dhaka than in Dhaka and there is big market and growing.

Cloth is cloth, give me something more

Retail business runs on experience. If you went to few of our retail shops like Catseye, Yellow, the environment inside the shop is at best cold. Everyone inside is melancholic for some unknown reasons! These brands need to understand that cloth is cloth; people go to shop for more. Future of business is changing rapidly so does retail. The brands, new and old alike, need to understand and come up with strategies to find a place in this new world.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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