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Fashion Brands Rush to Tap India’s Youthful Demographic

H&M store

Mobile shopping in India may have grown by more than 100 percent over the past two years, according to a recent study by Mastercard, but it hasn’t halted the rapid expansion plans of affordable fast-fashion brands looking to tap the potential of the country’s emerging middle class.

Rising income levels mean India’s consumer spending is set to hit $2.4 trillion by 2019, as per an Economist Intelligence Unit report, and with half of the country’s massive population under the age of 25, it’s no surprise to learn that the likes of H&M, Zara and Gap are putting down roots.

Swedish retail giant H&M will open its first brick-and-mortar flagship in New Delhi on Friday and plans to have as many as 30 stores across the country by the end of next year.

“This is the best time to be in India. It is H&M’s 60th and highly anticipated market with so much potential in retail,” Janne Einola, country manager at H&M India, told Business Standard. “We hope to exceed customer expectations with our varied range of inspiring fashion that lets them explore their personal style.”

Zara, owned by Spanish conglomerate Inditex, is reportedly feeling the heat. Despite recently becoming the first apparel brand in India to top $100 million in sales—not to mention having 16 stores across the country, the first of which opened five years ago—the retailer plans to open its location at the Select Citywalk shopping center in New Delhi at 9 a.m. on Friday, in an effort to tempt shoppers lined up for H&M’s grand opening.

And that’s not all. As part of a joint venture with Trent, the retail arm of Indian industrial firm Tata Group, the Zara store count is set to grow over the next three to four years.

Gap, meanwhile, entered the market through franchise-operated brand stores earlier this year, opening locations in Mumbai and New Delhi. A further 40 are in the works.

“India is an emerging, vibrant market and an important next step in our global expansion strategy,” Steve Sunnucks, global president of Gap, said in a statement at the time.

But the clothing chain is readying itself for battle with H&M, too. People familiar with the matter told the Economic Times that the Select Citywalk location is planning to mark apparel down by 25 percent on Friday.