Faisalabad has historically been a city that conducted the manufacturing for global brands. Yet as the middle class in Pakistan expands, it appears that many of the city’s residents are affluent enough – or aspirational enough – to become consumers of those brands, resulting in booming sales for retailers and local franchisees of international brands.
Most of the sales of branded clothing and jewellery is taking place through franchises that have bought the right to sell these products to consumers in Faisalabad. The demand for these products is fuelled by the vast segment of the middle class that can afford to buy global brands but not necessarily to fly out to Dubai – or even to Karachi and Lahore – to buy them.
A series of interviews conducted by The Express Tribune, both amongst consumers and retail managers, suggests a voracious and growing appetite for branded clothing lines. And it seems that the economic slowdown has done nothing to decrease sales in this segment of the market.
“The higher income buyers of international brands never seem to get affected by economic disorder in the country,” said Sohail Safdar, a franchise manager for Charles & Keith, the Singapore-based company that sells its own brand of women’s shoes and bags. “Many of our buyers do not want to have to travel abroad to buy these products. That has created a boom in retail sales and led many retail franchise owners to think hard about expansion.”
“Sales of international brands keeps getting better and better and has begun to lure in even more brands,” said Syed Suleman Raza, a manager at one of the Nike franchises in Faisalabad.
The underlying cause of the trend seems to be a willingness by a large part of the Pakistani middle class to be willing to pay significantly higher prices for what they perceive to be higher quality. And given their longer durability, many branded products are seen as good value for money.
“Branded tend to be more and last two to three seasons,” said Sonia Razzaq, a shopper at one of the upscale malls in Faisalabad.
Nonetheless, prices are steep for many products, with shoes frequently costing Rs5,000 per pair or more. Jackets, shirts and women’s dresses go for even higher, commanding prices in the range of Rs10,000 or higher. These prices are well beyond the reach of most ordinary Pakistanis and yet a sizeable proportion of the population can easily afford them.
“Our customers are very brand-conscious and buy these products without any hesitation at the price tag or any attempt at bargaining,” said Sheikh Sultan, a manager at a franchise of The Body Shop, a UK-based cosmetics brand.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.