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India’s fashion retail entities to grow 45% YoY in FY2023: ICRA

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India’s fashion retail sector is witnessing healthy sales growth in fiscal 2023 (FY2023) led by a pick-up in discretionary spending and normalisation of store operations post the pandemic. As per ICRA’s most recent analysis of the industry, retail entities in its sample set will see an exuberant year-on-year (YoY) increase in sales of around 45 per cent in FY2023.

The operating profit margins (OPMs) of the retail entities are, however, expected to remain range-bound at 7-7.3 per cent, due to significant increases in advertisement and promotion spending during the year. ICRA currently has a stable outlook on the retail sector, the ratings agency said in a press release.

India’s fashion retail sector is expected to experience a YoY sales growth of around 45 per cent in fiscal 2023 due to the normalisation of store operations and increased discretionary spending. OPMs are expected to remain range-bound at 7-7.3 per cent due to increased spending on advertising. Revenue growth is led by premium brands in metros/tier-I cities.

“Driven by improved economic activity and an uptick in discretionary spends, the retail sector reported a robust 55 per cent YoY revenue growth in 9M FY2023. While this was admittedly partly led by a low base, it also reflects a sharp 35 per cent growth over the pre-pandemic period of 9M FY2020. This favourable performance was also aided by nearly 5 million square feet of additional store space set up during FY2020-FY2022. Segment-wise, the revenue growth is led by premium brands in the metros/tier-I cities. The value-fashion segment, on the other hand, is facing inflationary headwinds and reported a negative same-store-sales growth when compared with the pre-COVID period of 9M FY2020,” commented Sakshi Suneja, vice president and sector head, corporate ratings, ICRA.

While the 55 per cent revenue expansion achieved in 9M FY2023 factored in the seasonally strong third quarter (Q3), the same is likely to sequentially moderate in Q4, translating to the projected 45 per cent YoY revenue growth for FY2023 as a whole. The gross margins for the retailers in 9M FY2023 remained largely in line with the FY2022 levels, as the retailers passed on increased raw material costs (led by the increase in cotton prices) to end-consumers. The other key cost heads for a retailer include rental, employee costs, and selling/promotional expenses, which together account for about 30 per cent of the total cost.

During FY2023, while rental expenses reverted to pre-pandemic levels, advertising and promotion expenses witnessed a steep increase, as retailers resumed these spending after a hiatus of nearly two years. Consequently, despite robust revenue growth, OPMs of fashion retailers are likely to remain range-bound at around 7-7.3 per cent in FY2023, trailing the pre-pandemic OPM.

Following a lull in FY2021, retailers resumed their store expansion plans in FY2022, which have continued in FY2023 as well. This was also enabled by the large equity raisings in FY2021, coupled with improved cash flows during FY2022 and year to date (YTD) FY2023.

“Entities in our sample set increased their capital spending to ₹14 billion in FY2023, implying a YoY expansion of 55 per cent. While players present in the value-fashion segment continued with their capex plans in FY2023, ICRA expected some curtailment/re-calibration in capex spending by these players in FY2024, till inflationary pressures ease. Online sales also continue to grow, though at a slower pace, with the waning impact of the pandemic. ICRA projected the share of online sales to inch up to 12-14 per cent of revenues by FY2024-25, vis-a-vis 8 per cent in FY2022. This is, however, unlikely to replace the brick-and-mortar sales model any time soon,” added Suneja.

Despite the sizeable capex plans, the credit profile of large, listed entities is expected to remain adequately supported by strong balance sheets, as is evinced by the healthy liquidity (₹2,200 crore of cash and liquid investment balances vis-a-vis total debt of ₹2,400 crore as on September 30, 2022) and strengthened net worth post the equity raisings in FY2021. This, coupled with improved cash flows in FY2023, would keep the credit metrics of entities in ICRA’s sample set comfortable, with the total debt-to-operating profit expected to improve to below one time and interest cover to improve to nine times in FY2023, from 1.4 times and 6.7 times, respectively, in FY2022.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (NB)

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