The Bangladesh market is an untapped gold mine when it comes to fashion retail, as more and more millennials and Gen Z consumers take the lead for driving fashion-based consumption and purchase decisions both online and in-store.
More often than not, one of the biggest hindrances stopping people to buy local is a lack of variety and access to fashion products which are in line with global trends, and even if some options exist, it’s very hard to find them in a market crowded with retail stores in malls, online marketplaces and endless Facebook pages.
With an aim to combat this issue, Bangladesh-based multi-brand platform Strides Co, is an online-exclusive fashion platform offering high-quality, contemporary and affordable wardrobe essentials from local and international brands, along with private labels.
Given their extensive experience in garment manufacturing for international brands around the world from their previous experiences at Shanta Garments, as well as building tech-based solutions, Strides Co’s founders strive to emerge as the leading online fashion destination for a modern Bangladesh.
Launched in the beginning of 2018, Strides Co was started out to test the market potential for online fashion in Bangladesh. The founding team consists of three members/Co-founders namely – Zahia Khondoker (CEO), Alavi Khondoker (COO) and Ariq Mansur (CTO). Since 2020, all partners engaged full-time into the business, and today, the team has grown to include 12 members.
Apparel Resources (AR) speaks to Alavi Khondoker, Co-founder & COO of Strides Co to understand what’s driving consumption in the online e-commerce segment; the current psyche of the Bangladeshi consumer; and the solutions being provided by Strides Co to tap on this gap within the market.
OFFERING A ONE-STOP SOLUTION FOR ALL FASHION NEEDS
Strides Co (aka SCO), features its flagship in-house brand Strides, along with other in-house brands such as Mahal, SCO and Quadroot. As a curated fashion platform, Strides Co also partners with third-party brands that meet their three pillars: Contemporary, Affordability and High-quality fashion. Currently, third-party brands under the helm of the company include Enzo and Misaki.
In keeping with the market demand and varied consumer choices and lifestyles, each brand under SCO, caters to a different set of concepts and ideologies, with the aim of covering a range of products. The brand’s target customer base is primarily aged between 18 and 35 years.
The flagship brand Strides offers wardrobe essentials with an edge (which is also the slogan for the company), wherein products are designed as everyday contemporary wear for all occasions. Strides covers most product categories including T-shirts, trousers, jackets, sweaters, shirts, kurtas and more.
Mahal is a premium ethno-fusion brand by Strides Co that aspires to create statement ethnicwear pieces within global styling cues. This brand primarily offers ethnicwear options that merge traditional sensibilities with the modern styling.
Their third-party brand partner, Enzo is a menswear brand that combines high-quality fashion and comfort, whilst Misaki aims to offer the same in the womenswear segment.
Prices of all products depend on the category and the nature of the style. The basic range of products under Strides is usually priced between Taka 300 and 1,800, whereas their premium products which come in limited stock range between Taka 3,000 up to Taka 8000 – these are usually products from Mahal.
PROVIDING HIGH-QUALITY FASHION AT ATTRACTIVE PRICE POINTS
Strides Co is known for bridging the gap within the industry by offering globally trending products and designs which are modern, affordable and high on quality. The brand achieves this through its diverse in-house design team that analyses global trends and fashion forecasts up to 2 years in advance.
“We incorporate these findings through our moodboards and stories that translate into our R&D. Through this process, designs are then finalised and sent for production, with rigorous quality control,” Alavi Khondoker tells AR in an exclusive interview. “We are able to maintain the affordability concept primarily through relationship building with our suppliers. We choose high-quality fabrics that meet our price points, and work within a tight budget to ensure minimum overhead costs, which are translated into the final products. As we grow, we hope to keep our price point while adding high value products through increased economies of scale that we can achieve with higher sales volumes.”
“We started Strides based on selling just men’s and women’s casual trousers, as we had expertise manufacturing trousers for international brands around the world from our previous experiences at Shanta Garments,” Alavi expounds, further adding, “We brought forward the best trousers for men and women, in terms of contemporary fit, fabric and comfort. These have proved to be our best selling products to this day and hold high priority in our product arsenal.”
In addition to these, other popular products under the brand include high-neck tops for women, embroidered and graphic unisex T-shirts and hoodies, sweatshirts and cardigans for the winter season.
SPENDING POWER OF THE BANGLADESHI CONSUMER
Currently Bangladeshi consumers seek globally trending fashion without breaking the bank. There is a greater willingness to pay higher prices for international brands or imported products as consumers trust the quality for the price. However, with more local businesses offering similar qualities, this gap is closing up.
Commenting on the same, Alavi says, “Fashion e-commerce has a lot of promise in Bangladesh, thanks to the burgeoning middle-income social class, digital revolution and fashion-conscious consumers. Hence we are aiming to capitalise on this market potential and bring all kinds of product categories to our customers and provide an ‘all things fashion’ shopping platform that you can trust for quality, fit and style from the comfort of your home.”
International brands’ products are usually considered if they are unique or available at a good discount.
What makes Strides’ products stand out is the dedication in providing high-quality wardrobe essentials with a unique edge that are in line with global fashion trends.
“We offer sizes from XS up to 2XL for most products, with some even going up to 3XL. We are already working on incorporating a wide size range for all our products to ensure maximum inclusivity for all our customers,” Alavi reveals.
MANUFACTURING AND SOURCING
SCO products are manufactured and sourced from a wide range of factories and vendors in and around Bangladesh. Corroborating the same, Alavi says, “For each kind of product category, we need to work with a different supplier who specialises in that specific category. We mainly work with export-oriented factories to achieve international quality standards.”
Having said that, special product categories that cannot be manufactured in Bangladesh at the current stage of the company are imported. But these categories hold a very small percentage in SCO’s overall product portfolio.
“We offer seasonal collections which are divided into Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. We also develop entirely separate collections for key occasions such as Eid and Bengali New Year,” Alavi says, adding, “We aim to provide a wide range of products in order to get relevant feedback from our customers. Once we see that a product is performing well, we take it into account for the next collection or restock the styles.”
Strides Co’s Head Office is located in the Banani region of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Being a digital-first brand, its operations are entirely online and they don’t plan on opening physical outlets anytime soon, but pop-up shops may be on the cards in the near future.
Being an online fashion company, Strides Co’s entire operations are based online. The brand offers delivery all over Bangladesh and is also the first company in Bangladesh to offer Trial at Delivery, where customers can opt to try multiple sizes of any product upon delivery and choose products and sizes that fit them best. The brand also offers 7-day exchange and return in order to ensure that customers are always satisfied with their shopping experience.
“This is our key USP, which we now offer across Dhaka city. We plan to continue our operations online and expand this service throughout Bangladesh. With Strides Co, our end goal is to make global fashion accessible to the Bangladeshi market,” Alavi says.
INITIATING RETAIL AND STAYING AFLOAT DURING THE PANDEMIC
As their operations are entirely based online, Strides Co has not faced any threats of closure during the lockdowns. In fact, the pandemic has helped mature the e-commerce market where more Bangladeshis were forced to shop online but eventually got used to it to a point where they are now preferring to shop online.
“Customers who previously hesitated buying online are now doing so, which has tremendously reduced the trust gap,” Alavi says adding, “The number of online consumers that we forecasted for the next few years prior to the pandemic has substantially moved up, and therefore, we hope and expect that the overall fashion e-commerce market will thrive.”
FASHION TRENDS FOR THE FUTURE
Fashion is always changing and factors such as COVID-19 may further influence trends which we previously couldn’t have imagined, e.g., wearing a matching mask. Having said that, the demand for quality and durability will always be important. Elucidating the same, Alavi says, “Consumers want more out of their clothes and more value for money, including the value attributed to society, such as brand ethics and sustainability measures.”
Going forward, the brand aims to highlight societal values while providing a one-stop solution for all fashion needs by collaborating with labels that uphold the same values while providing high-quality fashion.