Thursday, June 21, 2018

Is Consumer Loyalty Dead?

Commencing this weekend (23 June), almost all Fashion Brands in India will go on EOSS – End of Season Sale, a biennial activity that has been witnessing a higher share of annual sales. When I used to work for Benetton as Area Manager in 2004, things were different. There used to be EOSS Twice a year followed by the “seasons” as they are called, viz., “Spring Summer (SS)” and “Autumn Winter (AW)”. EOSS would usually start after Valentine’s Day in the hope that shoppers would still shop at full price for the big day to impress their dear ones. And the next EOSS would occur after Schools and Colleges have reopened, just ahead of the Festival season that usually begins from August onwards. Slowly, things started changing, rather realigning to Global trends. Many international brands had to match their Global Fashion Calendar and the year-end Christmas Sales, so the EOSS was pushed to December & January and accordingly the next EOSS moved earlier to end-June. And that’s the current trend now.


From Apparel Department Stores to Mono Brands, almost all Brands try to exhaust their Stocks during the EOSS. Interestingly, 15 years back, EOSS was restricted to a little less than 3-4 weeks. However, now it has moved to 6-8 weeks. There are many reasons that could be attributed to this;

  • There is limited seasonality these days, in a sense Customers shop all through the year compared to “Occasion-based Shopping” such as for festivals, wedding season, special occasions etc. So, while the lean periods through the year have more or less flattened, the demand spread has also evened out
  • Ever since the 2008 Economic Crash worldwide, Customers have become wary of spending high on products which would eventually be available at a lower price in a few weeks (sic). While India saw a boom in Mall culture between 2009-2014, the sheer number of Brands and their availability all through the year have been a cake for the Customers with easier accessibility 365 days
  • While I am not a big fan of “E-Commerce killed Offline” theory, it is a fact that there has been a reasonable impact for fashion brands, especially. This is mainly because the unsold Inventory were pushed to their digital vertical by Brands to liquidate the stocks and over time, the likes of Jabong and Myntra have become more of “Factory Outlets” where discounted Merchandise are available, always. It is no wonder that the share of products which are on Full Price on such Ecommerce Marketplaces is relatively low compared to those on Discounts. Actually, this is applicable for all categories
  • Department Stores offer a larger “Discount Pie” compared to the Mono Brands, given that most of them operate on a “Buy and Sell” model with no stock returns to the Brands. Therefore, in an effort to reduce the impact of their exposure to unsold Inventory, Department Stores offer aggressive discounts & promotions to ensure they clear old stocks as much as possible. 
So, with all the above factors taken in to account, I wonder at times, is there “Brand Loyalty” left anymore especially for the Fashion Brands?


When was the last time, You – the Reader of this Article, bought the same Brand of Apparel or Footwear or Watch or Sunglasses? Are you wearing now the same Brand that you wore yesterday? If two Brands are offering similar discounts during EOSS (or even at full price), would you buy a particular Brand? If so, then why?

So, the responses could be very subjective and suits each one of our needs. 

Honestly, I do not see Consumers clinging on to any particular Brand and I attribute it to two reasons – variety offered by over Top 500 Indian and International Brands (and Labels) across products categories from Perfumes to Casual wear, formal shoes, running shoes and beyond. 

Are you rewarding your Loyal Customers just with just Loyalty Points, Sale Previews and price-offs? Is this going to be sustainable at all in the long term? 

How would you retain them for longer – LTV as they say, Life Time Value (sic)?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

What’s in a name?


Is naming hotels after castes illegal, or will it amount to casteism? No, said the Madurai branch of the Madras high court, terming it ‘commercial speech and holding that there was nothing wrong in a Trichy hotel calling itself ‘Sri Krishna Iyyar Traditional Bramanal CafĂ©’.

About four and half years ago, several Periyar Dravida Kazhagam members tried to deface the hotel’s name board and were arrested and jailed for 22 days before being released on bail. 
Quashing the criminal cases against 112 people, Justice G R Swaminathan pointed out the ‘sheer hypocrisy’ of the petitioners as they had not showed defiance against similar entities elsewhere. “In Madurai, where this bench is situated, there are hotels named after castes and communities. ‘Konar Mess’ and ‘Mudaliyar Idly Kadai’ are well-known instances. Speaking for myself, I used to regularly go to ‘Reddiyar Mess’ at Pondicherry for lunch during my college days,” said Justice Swaminathan.


It is the constitutional right of the proprietor of a hotel to name it after a caste or community, he said, adding: “Unless untouchability is practised or only persons from that caste are allowed entry, nothing is illegal in it.”

Much has been discussed about the religious and caste identities of Retailers in India. I am told this segregation exists, even in developed countries between people of various religious identities. We still see people of certain religious identities in India not shopping at outlets run by those of other communities. In one instance, I learned that a Retailer had to shut the store in a town because the customers there felt uneasy while the jewellery they purchased were being delivered in their hands by those of a certain community, which they felt was offensive. This was in the year 2016.

The reason I am writing this article is because there is an unusual discomfort among the citizens of India, with mindless accusations drawn upon each other thanks to the hidden agenda of politicians. In many cases, the whole thing is vicious. Retailers take advantage of Politicians from their caste and they help the Politicians in turn to win subsequent elections. There are instances where people of various ideologies fight among each other and hence boycott certain Retailers. 


It is common to see those of non-Hindu community make flower garlands outside Temples for Hindu Gods and I have personally seen this till date in areas like Mylapore & Triplicane. Neither do Customers have a qualm about the same nor does God ever came in some devotee’s dream and told them to boycott those from other religions selling flowers that decorate HIM.

In my own journey of 21 years in Organised Retail, I have personally never segregated a customer based on their race or religion. In fact, I always say that it is from the money the Customer pays us for the products or services that we feed our own families. So, where is the question of religion coming here? This realisation is very important. Especially in the current situation. I guess Retailers (and people at large) must rise above the growing polarisation thrust upon us by fringe elements and a few politicians for our own good. For we cannot expect that this trend will take us anywhere forward. No way.