Monday, December 8, 2008

More is less. Less is Lesser.

The title is not to confuse but to connect with the current situation at many Retail Stores in India. I have never been to the US (never liked to stand in that Queue outside the Consulate in Chennai, you see) and hence I haven’t seen the actual situation now at the US Retail Outlets. Global Recession that started off from the western most part of the World Map (that we are used to seeing) has spread its virus all across. Japan and Germany are also facing Recession and many other stronger Economies are crumbling of late. Thousands have lost their jobs and needless to say, the first and the most important impact is normally on Retail Sales.

But as I keep saying quite often, in India, the “Big Bazaar” customers and the “Louis Vitton” connoisseurs are not really affected yet. These shoppers have budgeted their life-style well in advance and know when and how much to spend. So, no worries.

However, I was surprised to see for the first time a tremendous fall in moviegoers at a Cinema (recreated recently with its old name) off MG Road and fewer shoppers at one of the most famous Department Stores in Bangalore on Sunday, 07. Dec. 08. Am sure, the weekend overall would have been a slow one for most Retailers in India, given the fact that there was mass hysteria about possible Terror attacks and the unfortunate memorial day of breaking a place of worship. I am yet to know the dip in Sales from my colleagues across various formats, but am sure, it would have been much lesser than anticipated.

What I found surprising and quite depressing, was the slowdown in Customer Service. Lesser number of customers mean more attention to those who are already in! It makes sense to give the best to those who have braved the situation outside and have still come to shop/watch a movie. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. I stood up with pride when the Cinema House played the Indian National Anthem just before the film started. But they had the audacity to switch OFF the A/C after Interval, as the hall was only half-full(or rather half-empty). The Store staff were as busy as they were before and Shoppers don’t seem to get the attention they deserve. It would still be possible to achieve the projected sales figures by giving more importance to the needs and requirements of shoppers, by which the bill values could be increased. If there are special reasons to watch a movie (and of course, with A/C switched on), more people would step by. If there were special Sales Promotions (and of course, basic Customer Service in place), then customers would spend more time and money. Sadly, it is not so.

While I was at this popular Store on Sunday evening with my wife to shop for our ensuing annual holiday, it was at a point, disgusting to remain inside the store. The A/C was not working (again) and the staff were busy folding the clothes, giggling and talking to each other. The four-storied Outlet was smelling foul, with the same Oxygen being circulated among the 400 plus people who were inside. After a two hour burnout, we spent a little less than Rs. 700 (USD 14) and I was rushing outside the Store to get some fresh Air. We had come with an intention to shop. With an intention to shop a dozen things atleast. But we ended up with just one! Wonder how many people around left without buying and how many did end up doing a favor to this store.

Would have been nicer is one staff, just one staff had spent a quality 15 minutes with us and the Sales could have gone up TEN times. Regret, there is not much focus on Customer Service, even when there are just a few who pass by. Less customers are getting lesser Service than before. Pity.

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