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A weakening rupee, rising inflation and a tight leash on imports brought on by depleting foreign exchange reserves have suppressed both demand and supply in Pakistan, a situation also made worse by domestic political turmoil and global inflationary pressures. At the same time, a pending review with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is causing additional distress in Pakistan's markets.

Businesses have been forced to pivot. For those where the pivot is difficult – such as automobile and textile – companies have been slowly scaling back operations or shutting down plants on a temporary basis.

The fashion industry is experiencing different kind of dynamics.

Pakistan: true potential of fashion industry

Sania Maskatiya, a retail clothing brand catering to a niche market, has reported consistent sales despite the changing dynamics.

A catalogue image from the Sania Maskatiya's lawn campaign. Photo: Mehlum Sadriwala
A catalogue image from the Sania Maskatiya's lawn campaign. Photo: Mehlum Sadriwala

A weaker rupee has made its products more palatable to international customers that has more than made up for the slowdown in local sales.

Co-founder and CEO Umair Tabani said there has been a noticeable uptick in international clients.

“Sales across the bridal spectrum continue to remain strong, but prêt-wear, which is essentially a discretionary purchase, has experienced a 10% drop," Tabani told Business Recorder.

"For that category, we have tried to offer more value for money and changed the brand strategy as needed in order to maintain sales.

“Regular clients who would purchase 2-3 outfits per month are now picking up 1."

Sania Maskatiya and Umair Tabani. Photo: Sania Maskatiya
Sania Maskatiya and Umair Tabani. Photo: Sania Maskatiya

While prices of their products have risen 30% year-on-year, he maintained this is an industry-wide practice, and could not have been avoided. He said employees were also passed on the benefit through higher wages.

The design house has also doubled its seasonal production of lawn in comparison to last year, as it experienced strong sales in 2022, with many variations selling out completely.

This year, although projecting slower sales, the company remains confident and has made provisions for re-ordering designs that perform well.

He also noted that during the lawn production cycle, cotton saw a 40% increase, a significant hike in production costs looking on to next year.

“At the moment, lawn and Eid season came on the heels of the bridal season so we have been lucky so far in terms of consistent sales. However, we cannot predict what the post-Eid season will look like,” he said, citing any expansion plans will remain on hold for now.

“The environment is changing so quickly that we cannot plan for the coming few months, at least not for the really long term. At the moment, we are just taking it day-by-day and do not have plans to take on additional overheads or make big changes for the next year at least.”

Subcontinent treasure: in age of mechanisation, the Kashmiri shawl looks to stand out

Karachi-based multi-brand retail store, Ensemble, with outlets in Islamabad, Lahore and Dubai, also elaborated on shopping trends in the lead-up to Ramadan and Eid.

Speaking to Business Recorder, Shehrnaz Husain, Creative Director of Ensemble Pakistan, said, “To be honest, sales have remained the same as in the 2022 season. The economic impact on our regular customers is not visible yet, but it is inevitable. Ramadan shopping will be a true test of how spending power has been affected.”

Holding regular exhibits in Dubai especially before Eid, the store has reported a strong turnover of new and existing designers.

Also noting the uptick in local designers looking to branch out in the UAE, Ensemble looks to facilitate its business by providing marketing and synergistic exposure, which includes brand placement and valuation, through a selection of Pakistani designers and products that it feels will be successful in the Middle Eastern market.

“Dubai is the easiest international market accessible to local designers and there is of course a huge South Asian diaspora. A weaker rupee at the moment makes local products more attractive as well,” she explained.

In terms of how the current environment affects business planning in the short and long term, Husain said this is not a time to be expanding or increasing overheads, but a "time to consolidate and save".

“We are just taking it one month at a time, as it is a very unpredictable economic environment, with many variables."


1000 characters
John Mar 22, 2023 09:56am
Maintain Sales? People are struggling to buy food items!
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TimeToMovveOn Mar 24, 2023 04:51am
Wouldnt it be awesome if Pak could sell these clothes to India? I mean, it is not like you are getting Kashmir anyway, at least allow us to buy the clothes you make. That could help feed the hungry.
thumb_up Recommended (0) reply Reply

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