Back in the 90s, much before the age of “Millennials”, youngsters wore whatever the best of fashion their local mom ‘n pop store offered. To a few lucky ones, there was always a US based uncle or cousin who’d get them a Levi’s or a L’oreal lipstick, or if you were privileged enough, you traveled and did your shopping abroad.
Things have come a long way since then. Post liberalization and in the age of the internet, the best of brands – both homegrown and Western – are available in India. And even though, Indian companies have come of age, and are sourcing and manufacturing merchandise comparable to any international brands, the option of owning a foreign brand still offers a massive appeal to the Indian millennials and the brand conscious. In fact, it’s the brand awareness created by Western media and pop culture that piques the interest of shoppers back in India. The iPhone-trotting college kid in Greater Kailash knows her Forever Young from her Forever 21. So, when these brands actually open stores in India, allowing their fans to experience buying them without stepping out of the country, all hell breaks loose.
When the shopping floodgates open for the foreign-brand lapping consumers, even before the stores can open their shutters, the crazed fans line up outside the stores to grab their fill. Stampede like situations at stores like Zara are not unheard of. The astronomical price tag on the brand itself, or the possibility of wasting the entire day just wanting to blow all that money notwithstanding, these shoppers are determined and resilient.
The latest chain to open its doors in India is H&M, an ubiquitous, if budget, departmental Swedish chain, which ironically sources most of its clothing from Asian countries, predominantly India. And here’s the crowd laying in wait for the store to finally turn the OPEN sign on, at the Phoenix mall in Bombay.
In another instance, when Dunkin Donuts, a popular doughnut and cafe chain from the US, started its first store in Bengaluru, India, the crowds were not only humongous, some customers even went back home in tears, unable to have purchased a doughnut. The queue, at one point, was over 630 winding people long! “Incidentally, people had started camping as early as 7:30 pm, the previous night!”, a company representative had told Wooplr.
When another fashion chain Forever21 came to India in 2013, they offered a special discount between 7-8am, an odd timing by business operations, but it made sure the crowds started queuing up outside the store well before the sale hours, making for a viral sensation the brand could only hope for on its first day.
And of course when Starbucks, the popular coffee chain, open its first outlet in New Delhi, India, all hell broke loose. The queues outside the cafe ran the entire length of the Connaught place, and special security had to be arranged to control the crowds.
While an empty Cafe Coffee Day looked awkwardly from inside its doors, Starbucks of course wasn’t complaining.
(Update: An earlier version of this article erroneously mentioned H&M as a US brand. It’s been corrected.)