Brand Positioning Strategy
In Malaysia, where more than 60% of the population are Muslims, the surge in demand for hijab fashion – with a market size of at least MYR 1 billion (USD 245 million)- has resulted in the growth of independent hijab specialist brands.
Top 10 Brands
Capturing a combined assortment size of 11,135 SKUs, the top 10 brands for the last half of 2018 (from June to include Eid trade), were mapped by median price and number of discounted items offered (refer Chart 1).
Majority of these brands had a substantial amount of discounted items, with 5 out of 10 brands offering more than half of its respective assortments on discount.
Brands by Segment
dUCk positioned itself as an aspirational brand, enjoying almost no competition in its quadrant. Meanwhile Ariani, despite having 2x higher median price than most brands, had all items on discount including “New Arrivals”, which affected it’s perceived value.
Naelofar Hijab led the competitive mid-market segment with its wide assortment of 2,201 SKUs with fewer discounted items. Sugarscarf had an above average median price, but was heavy with discounted items, rendered its position in the mid-market.
With almost zero discounted items, Benang Hijau offered the most value with the least median price.
Note:  Calculated based on 2017 projected population demographic against reported median price USD 26 and assuming an average consumer purchases 4 pieces of hijabs annually.
Brand Performance Analysis
Overall, the brands generally achieved strong sell-out for the season at above 80%, except for TudungPeople, Sugarscarf and Poplook.
Both dUCk and Ariani were competitive in the premium segment, with only marginal variance over sell-out rate (86% vs. 87%), although Ariani had 4x more SKUs than dUCk.
In the mainstream mid-market, 4 out of 6 brands were heavy on discounted items, with 3 out of the 4 brands achieving above 80% sell-outs. Naelofar Hijab was the outlier with the largest assortment (2x above the average) yet with fewer discounted items and still drove strong 84% sell-out rate.
Benang Hijau aced the value segment with a strong sell-out at 83% and almost all items were offered at full price.
Despite leading on median price at MYR 119 (USD 29) in the mid-market segment, Sugarscarf achieved a lacklustre sell-out rate at 70% despite having more than half of items offered on discount.
Poplook is the only complete head-to-toe modestwear brand in the rank, with the category Hijab only comprising 9% of total assortment. The dismal performance showed that hijabs were not the main revenue driver. Nonetheless, it is also the only other popular brand that competes with Benang Hijau in the value segment.
Subcategory Performance Analysis
The top 5 performing subcategories combined, contributed a high 76% SKU count to the total of 10 brands analysed.
Within the category of Ethnicwear Scarves and Hijabs, Instant Hijabs had the biggest assortment, which was greatly led by the mid-market segment. Having said that, it was also a subcategory that was driven by high discounts to push sell-out.
Inner Hijabs took 4th positioning in terms of assortment size, with the lowest sell-out at 78%, with Naelofar and Sugarscarf gaining huge popularity over their respective styles.
Prints may be a risky theme, but results showed that the subcategory performed well with a total sell-out exceeding 80% while sell-out at full price achieved 75% which is above average.
Overview of Colours
Unlike the other categories in apparel, pink was the core colour in hijab and headscarves, taking up a bigger portion of the assortment, exceeding black or white for most brands.
4 Core Colours
Screening through the 10 brands, core colours in hijab were not limited to just black, white and grey but also pink, with the least priority on the colour black. These core colours commanded more than 50% of assortments across value and mid-market brands. Jelitasara was an exception, which followed premium brands by having more seasonal colours in its assortment.
dUCk had the least contribution of core colours while Naelofar had the largest contribution of pink colour.
TudungPeople and Poplook had a paler pink compared to other brands.
Prominent fashion colours across all brands were blue, purple and red, but mostly in muted shades.
Overview on Colours (continued)
Bestselling Shades of Pink
Plain solid colours dominated the best-selling items, largely contributed by Naelofar Hijab. Muted pink shades were trending across various materials, with some shades bordering nude and champagne colours.
Subtle aesthetics on plains, such as crystal embellished tips or lined piping were evident and were almost synonymous with Ariani and Jelitasara hijabs.
Note: The pantone codes provided are closest to the shades displayed, hence the actual codes may differ – dependent on the type of material used.
Overview on Prints
Print hijabs performed surprisingly well, with growing demand driven by the younger generation of hijabistas.
Brands with the most prints came from Qaira Hijab with 43% contribution, followed by Jelitasara at 15% while the other brands have a single digit contribution to their respective assortments.
dUCk stood out on this front, being famed for limited edition prints which give it a competitive edge and garnered a cult following. Ariani is also well-known for its wide assortment of printed hijabs.
The most popular print is undeniably floral, largely in pink bases. The geometric pattern is also a recurring theme.
Note: The pantone codes provided are closest to the shades reported, hence may not match exactly to the types of material.
The Rise of Modest Fashion: From Nike and H&M campaigns to luxury brands the likes of Dolce Gabbana and Gucci stomping down runways with headscarves since 2016, the surge in demand for what’s become known as modest fashion, particularly the hijabs, cannot be ignored by modest wear and muslimah brands.
The rapid growth of hijabs in Malaysia can largely be attributed to the height of influencer marketing and the rise of Muslim millennial socialites. The success of dUCk and Naelofar Hijab are driven by their respective founders, namely Vivy Yusof and Neelofa.
The New Core: Black and white have always been the essential colours in the fashion industry. However, in the world of hijab, Light, pale, muted and pastel shades were dominant, with pink being one of the key core colours.
Queens of Prints: The infamous cult brand, dUCk has enjoyed immense success on their limited edition print collections since it’s inception day. Today, with an impressive 86% sell-out at full price, the brand is the only player in with vibrant colours and bold designs.
Tailing closely behind is Ariani, a known specialist in printed hijabs who targets mature women with higher spending power. The brand stayed true to its pastel and muted colours in prints.
Next Steps for Brands
Staying Ahead of Competition: Naelofar Hijab strategically priced their hijabs at not more than MYR 100 (USD 24), except for special editions, and deployed its distribution via hundreds of stockists throughout the country and overseas.
As shown in Chart 1, many other hijab players crowded the same mid-market segment. This growing saturation naturally caused the segment to execute heavy discounting to clear unsold inventory. Therefore, retailers should adopt data analysis, to inspect own brand and product positioning as well as to closely monitor competitors’ activities.
Colour is King: Unlike the luxury and fast fashion brands, hijabs rarely follow any seasonal colour trend. Brands avoid taking chances on unconventional colours as the wrong move would prove very costly.
Therefore, it is extremely vital to constantly analyse the right combination of colours with the right pricing, especially for brands in the highly saturated mid-market, who often overlooked the opportunities in the premium and value tiers.
Having insights drawn from data, brands can then make informed decisions on experimenting new colours or identify the next pink shade for scarves.