Saturday, December 24, 2011

When Retailers and Brands collaborate!

 

Croma iPad

Its not so usual that you see Electronic Retailers promoting one particular brand at their stores. It means there is a larger strategic relationship between the two beyond just selling a few pieces of a particular model. Most retailers though, refrain from such tactics to avoid the wrath of other players in the respective segments. It is not just the advertising cost that gets shared between the two, but they both look at building an everlasting relationship to build a category, as the one undertaken between Apple and Croma, the electronic megastore from the house of Tatas. One could own an iPad 2 at just over Rs. 2,400 a month (USD 45), on an EMI basis for 12 months, thanks to credit offered by ICICI and HDFC Banks. Croma has built up their electronic retail format over the past years, thanks to its aggressive expansion mainly among metro cities where consumers shop around not just for exciting deals but where the staff are well trained, an inviting store ambience that allows you to browse at ease without too much intrusion by the staff and ofcourse, the TATA Guarantee. The Salt to Steel Major has built its retail portfolio through TRENT – the company that operates formats such as the Westside Department stores, Zara exclusive stores and Star Bazaar Hypermarkets. Incidentally, Apple which has a strategic tie-up with Reliance and allows it to operate the exclusive Apple stores has not undertaken such an aggressive promotion with Reliance Digital, the electronics format of Reliance Retail. Instead, they seem to be promoting rival Samsung with its Galaxy Tab, seen as a major contender for the No. 1 space in the tablet market.

Reliance Digital

Retailers who focus on mobile phones and accessories such as The Mobile Store, UniverCell, Sangeetha, etc. seem to play a similar strategy, just that they promote those brands which they distribute themselves. For example, Sangeetha has been promoting the latest from Nokia, the Lumia 800 pretty aggressively. At a similar EMI of Rs. 2,400 pm one can easily own the latest windows-based smartphone which was meant to revive the fortunes for Nokia, though the initial launch results have proved it to be unlikely. Nokia somewhere lost the steam – that’s the chorus that most observers and industry watchers seem to say. A once trusted phone for the smarter class lost its popularity to the Blackberry and Android based smartphones and ofcourse to the iPhone (although negligibly) due to the price disparity. Nokia continues to be a leader in the entry segment, phones below Rs. 5,000 but sees enormous competition from local brands like Micromax, Karbonn and Lava while Samsung and LG have also been stepping up the gas in these segments. 

Lumia Sangeetha

There a few advantages when Retailers promote a particular brand;

  • Brand Leadership

When a Retailer courts itself with a particular brand and also aggressively promotes its products, it looks like they have leadership specific to the said brand. This brings in positive recall in the minds of potential customers who would like to buy that particular brand in future and the retailer becomes the obvious choice.

  • Continuity of customer cycle

When customers of a brand want to upgrade / replace their existing products, they flock to the preferred retailers due to a previous positive experience. This is category agnostic and hence would prevail for most products, so to say.

  • Better Prices

Being the preferred partner (to a Brand), the Retailer also commands a special price to the new launches. Not only do they get the products first (than the other retailers), they would also be able to command a special price – directly from the brand as well as through special associations with Banks who provide 0% interest on EMIs

There are also a few drawbacks;

  • Popularity among other brands

When Retailers strike a special note with a specific brand and keep promoting them aggressively, potential customers could perceive that the Retailer doesn’t maintain other leading brands. This, in a way distracts customers and diverts them to other Retailers.

  • Relationship with other brands

When other brands know that a Retailer promotes a particular brand, they may turn away to other multi-brand retailers who provide equal importance to other brands. Although this is uncommon, it could be seen as a potential threat, especially for future launches.

Nevertheless, it is nice to see Retailers and Brands collaborate to promote each other. The Retailer attracts walk-ins into the store and the Brand sees higher conversion. In the US, UK and European markets, there has been a strong swing towards e-commerce over the last few years where customers are shopping online for mobiles and electronics. This is bound to happen in India soon. Until then atleast, let such collaborations prosper!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Retail Employees Day! Thank you folks!

No matter how popular or old a retail brand is, they will not be able to reach out to their customers without the continued and trusted efforts of their employees. Retailers across the country have come forward to support an initiative called "Retail Employees Day" to be celebrated on the 12 December every year. An organization by the name TRRAIN is behind this idea. TRRAIN is the brainchild of the most respected Mr. BS Nagesh, the Vice-Chairman of K Raheja Retail which manages various retail formats such as Shoppers Stop (Department Store), Crossword (Book Store), Hypercity (Hypermarkets), Home Stop (Home & Living) and InOrbit Malls. Nagesh has been part of the Retail industry over for over 20 years and is seen as an icon among the retail professionals young and old, a kind of role model that every retail manager wants to become! He has been through the industry's ups and downs and has always been there to support the various ideas and initiatives of the Retail Industry. 

Retail staffing in India has come a long way since the 1980s. The old-fashioned “showroom salesman or salesgirl” is now referred as “Customer Care Associates”, thanks to the proliferation of modern and organized retail formats. Even stand-alone traditional retailers have embraced this well and provide respectable employability to their front-end staff, who can make or break the business. The final “conversion” of a potential customer into a real one is in the hands of the CCA and hence, a lot of importance to their well-being is being provided. In the good old days, they were paid a lumpsum as salary but things have changed today. They are covered under Minimum Wages Act, are to be provided PF, Gratuity and ESI and needless to say, additional income options such as performance bonus and variable increments. CCAs undergo a fortnight, if not more of classroom training before they enter their dream world of employment at the swanky retail stores. Within two years of commencing their first job, many smart ones move up the hierarchy as floor managers, department managers, etc. There are even classic examples of front-line staff making it to senior positions and more are in the making. The dedication of some of the staff is exemplary, to say the least. I personally know a few who have gone out of the way, beyond their call of duty at many times. 


I have been personally involved in training the front-end staff right from the beginning of my career. A fellow colleague, who used to sell DVDs and Video Games at Musicworld Kolkata ten years ago has now grown to the rank of a Regional Manager at one of the most reputed music companies in the world! I was also a certified trainer at RPG Institute of Retail Management, an inhouse training agency of RPG Retail which was created to focus continued training and development to the front-end staff. I have trained over 2,000 staff members ahead of the opening of Central Malls at Bangalore, Hyderbad and Pune during 2003-04. They stand all day, greet customers with a smile, make your shopping and dining experience a great one and at the end of day, deserve more than their salaries.
On this day, I salute these heroes – without whom the Organized Retailers cannot grow the way they aspire to! My heartiest thanks to each one of them for making us proud; Cheers guys! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

From Spencer's Plaza to Indiaplaza!

Indiaplaza appoints Mr. S Shriram as SBU Head – Life Style

Indiaplaza.com, the company that pioneered online shopping in India since 1999, today announced the appointment of Mr. S Shriram as the SBU Head – Lifestyle.  A Retailer by Profession and Choice” as he loves to call himself, Shriram is indeed very passionate about Retail. As SBU Head for Indiaplaza, he is responsible for building the Lifestyle business including Men’s, Women’s and Kid’s Apparel and accessories, Jewelry, Watches, Sunglasses, Home Furnishing and Furniture. 

According to Mr. K Vaitheeswaran, Founder & CEO, Indiaplaza.com, “We are very happy to have Shriram on board. I am confident his rich experience as a retailer will help position Indiaplaza as the leading online shopping destination for lifestyle also, just like for books and electronics.”

Online shopping in India is booming across books and electronics. With the Indian internet population crossing 100 million recently, the next wave of growth is expected in the area of lifestyle. With a loyal base of customers and fast growing traffic, Indiaplaza is aiming to quickly establish leadership position in online retailing of lifestyle as well.

Prior to joining Indiaplaza, Shriram was the National Head of Business Development at CafĂ© Coffee Day and was responsible for their expansion among Key account partner-locations. Earlier to this, he was leading the Travel Retail and Consumer Businesses at Bangalore International Airport Limited as part of the Core Committee that was involved in selecting the operators across various commercial businesses such as Domestic and International Retail, Duty Free, F&B, Forex, Landside Traffic Management, Ground Transportation, etc.  He also had the privilege of working with United Colors of Benetton, one of the leading fashion brand and some of India’s prominent retail organisations : The Future Group and the RPG Group.

Shriram holds an Executive Education from IIM Bangalore, PG Diploma in Business Administration in Marketing from New Hampshire University, USA (in association with Institute for Technology & Management, Chennai), PG Diploma in International Business from Pondicherry University and is a Commerce graduate from Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College, Chennai. He is a renowned speaker at various seminars/ conferences and a visiting faculty at some of the prominent B-Schools.  

About Indiaplaza :

Indiaplaza.com pioneered e-commerce in India way back in 1999 when there were less than 3 million people using the internet in India. Today, Indiaplaza is an industry leader offering an outstanding selection of millions of items on its website at low prices. Millions of customers within and outside India have used Indiaplaza to shop for themselves or send a gift to someone.

Way back in 2001, I started my career as a Management Trainee with RPG Retail and my first stop was at Spencers' Plaza in Chennai for my induction. It's been a long and exciting journey until now and I look forward to accomplishing many more in times to come. 

As I always say, "Miles to go before I sleep..."