Showing posts with label Grocery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grocery. Show all posts

22 September, 2019

Howdy Slowdown?

Flipkart commenced operations in India about a decade ago. For the FY 2017-18, the Annual T/o of the company was Rs. 24,000 Crores (about US $4 Billion) while Amazon India has a turnover of Rs. 12,000 Crores for the same period. Swiggy earned around Rs. 442 Crores for the previous FY and Zomato added Rs. 1,340 Crores. Industry Leader in the Furniture segment Urban Ladder reported a top line of Rs. 200 Crores for the previous year. Offline Retail Giant Future Group has an annual turnover of Rs. 30,000 Crores across various formats from Grocery to Electronics. Reliance Retail on the other hand has a combined turnover of Rs. 100,000 Crores of which 70% comes from Fuel Retailing and Jio, the data cum telecom company which is part of the retail entity. Ola, the cab hailing company clocked a turnover of Rs. 2,200 Crores while Uber India has an approx. annual turnover of little less than 1,000 Crores last fiscal. Phew.

So, why am I enlisting these turnover figures here?


Because, we are complaining of an Economic Slowdown. FMCG companies, Retailers, Automobile Manufacturers and many other consumer facing companies (and their backend suppliers) have all been complaining of a slowing growth in their businesses. As is the case most often, the Government is being blamed for the mess that we are supposedly in, right now. 

Reliance Retail & the Future Group together account for over Rs. 60,000 Crores which is almost 2% of the total estimated Retail Industry in India (about US $ 500 billion). Add Amazon & Flipkart and the overall business from new channels has increased tremendously over the years. The total pie of the Organised Retail Industry as well as the total consumption market have increased over the past decade and a half from less than 5% to nearly 12% currently. While ITC, Britannia, HUL and others have seen a slide in their sales, remember how Patanjali is raking close to Rs. 10,000 Cr in turnover and is aggressively followed by the likes of Dabur & Himalaya!

E-commerce has played a pivotal role in increasing the overall consumption market in India – selling products online and delivering at the doorstep at the most comfortable time for consumers, service offering (such as booking plumbing & carpentry services) and of course transportation including local mobility as well as ticket bookings across modes of transport. 


While Swiggy and Zomato deliver lakhs of food parcels daily, the restaurants have seen an average 15-20% of their business coming from these channels with a marginal increase in their total business as well. Hundreds of restaurants which were invisible are now able to showcase their products on the Food Delivery Apps and have eventually taken away some of the market share of popular restaurants, thereby curtailing footfalls to restaurants as well as through online orders.

With millions of rides fulfilled everyday by Ride hailing apps in India, have you ever seen an Auto Rickshaw driver starving off business? In fact, thousands of new Autos have been sold. New companies like MG Motors & Kia have set up plants and newer models are outselling older versions. Just that the outdated models like i10 and Indica don’t have any takers. Fortuners, XUV500 & Audis and Beamers aren’t selling short anymore! 


The overall consumption market hasn’t shrunk, rather newer channels and opportunities have opened up. The turnover numbers in the first paragraph are to showcase how much new business has been added over the past decade. The slowdown is more in our minds and a measured approach towards over-spending, which is anyway an inherent way of living.  

And btw, the headline has nothing to do with the so called “Economic Slowdown” but the Indian PM is addressing an event in the US this weekend and the name of the event is “Howdy Modi”, so I thought I would use it to entice my readers.

11 July, 2019

Elevating the Pantry Shopping Experience

I was at the FoodHall on Linking Road at Mumbai for a recce on behalf of an FMCG Brand that I am working as a Retail Advisor. This was my first visit to the store and I have heard quite a lot about the concept which has been around for over half a decade and with the number of Stores / Store business growing quite well, YoY. The 4 storied outlet spread over 6,000 sq. ft. approximately houses everything that a Food Bazaaar sells, from Grocery to Fresh Vegetables, Oils to Snacks and so on. Except that most Indian Brands do not find a place here. Most Indian “mainline” or mass FMCG Brands, perhaps. And its not just the merchandise that’s different, rather the entire shopping experience. With the assortment of products spread across the four levels, almost NIL promotions or Discounts and a very private shopping experience, I guess the concept has caught up quite well with shoppers. 

I did see atleast 3 Celebrities (Cinema related) in the 2 hours that I spent at the store. They had a private shopper along with them not just to carry a basket or push the trolley, rather to ably assist them in their choice of products to purchase. They seem to be at ease while just being there and of course the entire elevated customer experience which makes the format a hit with the high and mighty. 


Cut to 2002 when I used to run Foodworld Stores as Operations Manager. Even then, my store at RA Puram, would attract quite a bit of celebrities given that this was one of the premium locations in South Chennai. I would personally assist film stars likes Ms. Khushbu Sundar, Ms. Sarika Kamal Hassan, the former CEO of Ford India who would live at the Boat Club Area and the families of the top brass at Hyundai who had chosen this part of town to form small communities of their ilk. The reason for them to shop at an air-conditioned environment (in 2002) was not just convenience but privacy too. However, over the years, the much coveted “Grocery Shopping” has evolved along with Customers. 


Today, the good old Big Bazaar looks shinier than before. The Future Group has created a new vertical in FBB – Fashion at Big Bazaar which has actually evolved from the learnings of the apparel department of Big Bazaar. One would recall the Group sold its jewel-in-the-crown "Pantaloon" business to Aditya Birla Group couple years ago. And now they have built FBB from scratch as well as the upmarket Cover Story which is a dazzling women’s-only store with fast fashion curated from London & beyond. Similarly, FoodHall is a great evolution from the erstwhile Food Bazaar but with an elevated shopping experience. Note – the elevation is not just the imported olive oils and nuts, wide range of cheese, or organic vegetables, rather the entire experience. 


The FoodHall also has a Deli, a Café and a Chocolate Bar, an in-house curation where a Chef prepares fresh chocolates with a Tempering Machines to produce interesting cute-looking chocolates which costs upwards for Rs. 500 for 6 pieces. Connoisseurs Delight, perhaps. The Cellar stocks and sells some of the finest wines from the world. And the Fresh Poultry / Meat / Seafood is a massive hit with an exclusive area demarked in so manner that there is absolutely no stench that comes out of the area. Overall, FoodHall has elevated the Grocery Shopping in India. 



Recently, RP-SG Group which runs Spencers Retail acquired Godrej’s Nature’s Basket which is a similar concept as FoodHall but the latter beats the former hands down with it’s range, assortment, pricing and customer experience. There are similar concepts in all major cities but the trend is yet to catch up outside Delhi/NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore. Is the market ready for gourmet grocery? Yes. Are the Retailers / Mall Owners & Shopping Centres ready? Perhaps, No.  It’s not just the shop or the real estate that would elevate the experience, rather the Retailer’s vision and readiness to cater to this elite segment of customers. Actor Madhavan is the Brand Ambassador for Elite Matrimony (in this age and time when marriage is not an institution but more of convenience and social status). 

So the premium Customer not only exits but also waiting. Let’s see who expands first and fast.

09 April, 2017

G for Grocery Retail – Then Vs. Now

From shopping grocery at Kirana stores to Government Ration Shops to one of the first organized retail shops in India to the supermarkets and hypermarkets and finally now with my own mobile Apps for Grocery, I would say I have been lucky to see them all. My tryst with Grocery shopping is cut to the early 90s when I would accompany my father to the state-run TUCS shops and PDS shops and bring, rice, dal & kerosene kept on the back of our bicycles. During the late 90s, a retail shop named Subiksha opened in the heart of South Chennai – a store similar to a PDS but a bit modern with staff in uniform who assisted customers with their shopping needs and a computerized bill to support the transaction. I remember cycling 5 kms to buy 3 kgs of sugar, which would save us 10-12% than buying from the neighborhood Kirana shop. I used to be amazed at how shopping was revolutionized in the late 90s with the advent of “Shop n Stop” a modern retail store close to my house in Royapettah that encouraged self-service, which was not just a fancy thing but also a very convenient one.



I was fortunate in the early 2000s to join and work with RPG Retail’s Foodworld Supermarkets, which was one of the earliest organized retail stores in India. From consumer offers to world class shopping experiences, the company paved the way for future entrants with this format of retailing. When I joined the Future Group, I witnessed how a humble 1,500 sft of a supermarket had morphed itself into a hypermarket with Food Bazaar spread over 10,000 sft at its largest outlet then in 2004 and that too on the fourth floor of India’s first seamless Mall, Bangalore Central. Till date, our family has shopped only at Food Bazaar in over 95% of cases. That’s some loyalty, rather just the convenience of shopping the entire household I would say. Late 2000s was the challenging periods for Retail, although not as worse as what we’ve been witnessing for the past 24 months. Hypermarkets reduced their sizes and have found the 4,000 sft model as their sweetspots and are still tweaking their models.


Since the turn of the decade in 2010, we have seen online retailers come and go and behemoths like Big Basket stay on with a supposedly proven model. I would like to cite the example of IBuyFresh.com which was the online effort of Kovai Pazhamudir Nilayam, a Coimbatore based Retail store that started with fresh Fruits & vegetables and later moved on to the Grocery & Household segments. The e-commerce start-up, which was serving over 800 orders a day in just 6 months of commencing shut down abruptly one day due to viability issues. Others like Peppertap and Local Banya raised millions of dollars to eventually shut down their ventures leaving smaller players like my own Hyperlocal start-up Oyethere.com in jeopardy, what with Investors sitting on the fence not wanting to experiment on new models any further.


Much has been spoken about Amazon’s self-service, self-check-out store in America which is a dubbed as a smart-store where customers pick products off the shelves which get billed while picking-up and the check-out is super quick with just a tap of their credit cards or mobile phones (NFC payments). Grocery shopping worldwide and in India has been seeing a lot of new opportunities, of course with challenges but perhaps, remains the most interesting retail format.

11 September, 2016

Mistakes make you stronger


In what is considered as a head-turning market opportunity, I went about with plans to deliver Eco-Friendly clay Ganeshas to customers at their doorsteps. While a few people have already tried it in the past with limited success, this was perhaps the first time a Hyperlocal Ecommerce Marketplace (my startup Oyethere.com) was trying something very unique such as this. We had four different options – an idol of Clay Ganesha being common in all the four and the additions being different in each one of them. Icing on the cake was that we would pick up the Ganeshas back from customers houses after the five day ritual was over, thereby providing customers a great sense of relief from rushing towards water bodies for immersing the idols, as is the normal practice around the festival that is celebrated all over the world by Hindus with much fervor. Being a strategy guy, I planned meticulously on how this whole exercise should be executed. Firstly, met our product partner well in advance to brief them about the enormity of the opportunity and what gains it would bring to both of us. Later, I planned the marketing campaigns, mostly digital.Finally, I worked on the logistics and last mile delivery which is the key thing in Hyperlocal Ecommerce.  As always, plans on paper looked glossy. I had very few chances of faltering, I thought to myself and didn’t leave enough room for things that could go out of hands. And that nailed me in.


12 hours before we began the distribution and delivery of Ganeshas, I gave a notice to my product partner. While I was sure they were at work, I didn’t follow-up every few hours on what has been the ground scenario. The partner’s staff, being new to this kind of an operation, hadn’t kept check and balances which meant that there were unforeseen delays from their suppliers. We started deliveries 3 hours behind our scheduled time of commencement, thereby putting a lot of stress on our capabilities. While we had adequate manpower to deliver Ganeshas, the last minute pressure hit everyone on their heads, with all of us getting in to a tizzy. I was attending almost every call that was coming to our helpline and patiently explained to customers that the Ganeshas would be delivered on time, only to find myself fooled by my own randomness. We delivered and delighted a majority but had to suspend our operations at one stage, which not only put off the customers but also attracted a lot of negative criticism through calls, messages and social media. At 11.55pm, I put out an apology on our official Facebook Page, requesting customers to forgive us for the lapse. I went underground for a few days, with no interaction with the outside world, just so I could introspect the mistakes and come out stronger. Which I did eventually, doing a favour to myself and my ecosystem.

As always, my wife and a few friends stood by me. Many of them took the effort to call me, message me to keep my spirits high. They quoted examples of how very large companies have committed grave mistakes but came back stronger after correcting themselves. And so here I am, back in action with new plans and new resolves to improve ourselves and offer better services in times to come. Our plans are intact and we believe we will only perform better in times to come. 

Don’t write me off, yet. And watch this space.

18 September, 2012

The Retail FDI brouhaha!

 

Best Price Ludhiana

Popular Media is in full force discussing the pros and cons of opening up FDI in multi-brand Retail, announced by the Manmohan Singh led Union Government of India on 14 Sep. 2012. Finally, it happened. Rather, it had to. On 9 Jan 2012, the same Government allowed 100% FDI in Single Brand Retail, acting as a precursor and paving the way for the current policy decision. The UPA Alliance which leads a multi-party coalition Government has finally had the spine to push this through, alienating some of its own partners putting its Government in jeopardy. With the current policy in place, it means that multi-national Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco and their likes can invest in India on their own as well as in Joint Ventures with Indian partners or Business Houses. But, there is a catch. FDI in Retail has been made a State Subject which means that each State has to provide an approval for each partnership that is proposed and to be allowed to be operated within its precincts. This is a bit absurd, to say the least. The policy states that over 30% of input must be locally sourced, which in my opinion is a very good thing for Indian traders and businessmen.

(Suggested Reading: Starbucks in India)

So, lets see what’s in store for consumers with multi-brand FDI in Retail;

Pricing

By allowing FDI in Multi-brand Retail, the end consumer is expected to get better pricing for most products. In case of Agri-products, even the Farmers are expected to command a better pricing since they would be dealing directly with the Retailers. Since these Retailers purchase large quantities of products from FMCG companies directly, they would be able to get better margins and would thereby pass them on to Consumers. This is largely in case of Grocery Retailing. It would be similar in Electronics Retail too. Fashion Retailers who run a chain of stores would be able to procure their merchandise at better rates from manufacturers and would again pass on the benefits to their customers. This is one important area where everyone gains!

Assortment

At the moment, products manufactured / produced in one part of the country are not available in many other places. This is mainly because of Supply Chain Constraints. Multinational Retailers don’t just bring big bucks, but also the knowledge and know-how of how to do things better. This, would be an important part of the proposed Retail expansion of Organized Retail, with traders getting more scope for their products. Customers will get a wider variety and range than before which will throw open new options and opportunities for consumption.

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Generate Employment

Retail trade as a whole employs about 8% of the population in the country, directly and indirectly. These people are paid a fixed amount as compensation and do not benefit with other Government schemes such as Pension Fund, Provident fund, Employee State Insurance, Gratuity, etc. Modern Retail already provides most of these benefits to its staff. With more and more Organized Retail Stores opening up, it is expected to generate higher employment across the country.

(Suggested Reading: Retail Staffing)

Credit availability

One of the popular qualms is that the neighborhood Kirana provides free credit which the Organized players may not be able to and would hence lose out on. This is incorrect. Spending through credit/debit cards has grown over 6 times in the past decade within Modern Retail. Customers are happy to swipe their cards even for smaller transactions, more for ease than anything. Retailers like Shoppers Stop and Big Bazaar have co-branded cards, thus exciting customers with higher reward points for purchases.

Recreational Spaces

Modern Retail is not just about shopping in a comfortable environment but also includes a lot of fun and entertainment for families. These large stores have F&B facilities, gaming zones, etc. where children can unwind while parents are shopping. It is also an excuse for families to go window-shopping and end up buying something or the other!

And here is why a few segments of the people are against it;

Kiranas would shut-shop

The oft-heard uproar is that Kiranas would shut-shop due to the emergence of big-box multi-national Retailers. This is untrue. Kiranas have their basics right, starting with Location, Pricing, Assortment, Credit to Customers, to name a few. Large Retailers take time to crack even some of these points. Having present in India for over a decade, Domestic Retailers such as Foodworld, Spencers, Reliance Fresh, More, etc.  haven’t got their act correct, I would say. If they have a good location, then their pricing is (obviously) not so competitive and even if they attempt to, then they are in the Red. Merchandising is one of the most difficult paradigms of the Retail business coupled with severe Supply Chain constraints in the Indian scenario. Given these, it would be almost impossible for large Retailers to succeed, whether they are of Indian origin or International.

(Suggested Reading: Store Opening )

Secondly, most of the Kirana stores (Mom-and-Pop-Stores) are first generation entrepreneurs in their 40s and 50s who started off their own little corner stores during the 80s and  90s after Liberalization. Some of them include women, who run petty shops in neighborhoods to support their family, sometimes as a main source of income and at times as alternate, additional income. Their children, most of whom are undergoing good education are moving out of the family businesses. Many youngsters aspire to become Diploma holders, Engineers, MBAs, etc. across a wide range of subjects and are hence not looking forward to continue the family’s traditional Kirana business. As it is, many shop owners are not looking at continuing their petty businesses for the coming generations. So I wonder why this hue and cry.

shopping trolley 1

Many Kiranas have already embraced modern Retail. For example, Metro AG which set shop ten years ago in Bangalore now has half a dozen stores spread across the country. Most of its customers are traders and merchants who buy from Metro and sell to end-users (customers). Wal-Mart set up a JV with the Bharti Group a few years back and runs Cash & Carry Stores in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Its main focus is on Kiranas and Retailers to whom they sell stuff in tonnes! Even in big cities like Mumbai and Chennai, it is quite common to see Retailers shop at the likes of Reliance Mart and Big Bazaar, given the substantial savings.

Kiranas are a tough lot and represent the well-entrenched Indian Entrepreneurship and cannot be unseated so easily. Long Live Kiranas!

(Suggested Reading: David Vs. Goliath)

19 February, 2012

Phoenix Market City–Everything for Everyone!

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Yet another mall opened its doors recently in Bangalore – this time in the far eastern limits of Bangalore, near Whitefield. After a successful launch at Pune and Mumbai, the Mumbai-based Phoenix Mall Management has launched their prestigious project in Bangalore. This is the largest mall in town with an estimated 1.80 million square feet of space – a multi-development concept and one of its kind in the city that also includes a half a million square feet of office space, a 5 Star hotel with 236 rooms, a service apartment with 174 rooms and a multiplex spread over 55,000 sq ft. The external beauty lies in the fact that it is horizontally spread than vertically – all of four floors and a lower ground which connects directly to the most spacious parking lot which is well spread and brightly lit. The construction architecture is minimalistic with no jazz – focus is on the Retail Stores than crazy designs and confusing walkways. This mall also launched for the first time in Bangalore, marquee brands such as Zara, the Spanish fast-fashion retail chain in a JV with the Tatas (Also Read: Starbucks India – a TATA Alliance), Calvin Klein, Gant and California Pizza Kitchen. The main anchors include Big Bazaar, India’s largest Grocery and Homewear Hypermarket chain, MAX Hypermarkets, Reliance Trends, Reliance Digital and Reliance Time-Out. Regular Mall names such as Benetton, Tommy, Fab-India, Titan, Louis Philippe, Arrow are present while a few such as Café Coffee Day, Barista are conspicuously missing!

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The best thing about the mall is that it has everything – for the first time, multiple entrances – from the main entry gate, from the sides (Drop-off area), and from the basement parking area. The Ground Floor (entry level) is rather wide and broad – spacious enough to make it appear like a premium mall. Tommy, Gant and Zara welcome visitors with their bright signages and show-windows. Once inside, the shopper gets to see the wide expanse through well thought out and planned cut-off areas – from one floor, there is ample visibility to other floors.

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The anchors are also well spread. Big Bazaar is closer to the Parking Area so it would be easier for customers to take their shopping trolleys to their vehicles; however one needs to walk almost half a mile to the main road if they don’t have a personal transportation – an area that must have been given thought to. Max Hypermarkets welcome you once the shopper enters from the lower basement. Pantaloon Fashion store is placed in the upper floor while Reliance Digital (the Electronics Store) is in the lower basement too. There is a small gifts shop – all of 400 sq ft which is packed with curious onlookers for all the fancy cheap Chinese imports that the store has. The Foodcourt is as always, on the top floor nearer to the Cinema Halls while the Gloria Jeans coffee shop is sadly placed beneath an escalator with sparsely spread out seats – some wooden and some sofa seating in some random manner! Obviously, the café doesn’t commensurate its great coffee with its ambience. The other coffee shop, Costa is placed on the top floor – some logic I guess!

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I walked for over an hour, before understanding the layouts and placements, familiarizing myself – I scored lesser marks in my own purview although I wonder if shoppers would get to know it even after as many as 3-4 visits. Zoning, which I know personally had taken many months with inputs from some fabulous international consultants is to say the least, sad. Maintenance costs would be sky high I guess – air-conditioning such a wide area with two dozen security guards for over 14 hours a day is not going to be cheap or easy. The escalators – onward and downward are placed next to each other thereby not diverting traffic in various directions. Signages- although we don’t read as much – are scarce.

Overall, this Mall has tried to become everything to everyone – a premium mall in one-fourth of its space and a normal neigbourhood shopping centre with the rest. While Big Bazaar and Max are expected to draw a different set of clientele than, say a Zara or Gant, they are placed far behind – from a real estate point of view, this probably makes sense. But just that. Most people who intend to shop at a Hypermarket would be passing through premium retail stores – not only would they find it out of place but also a bit weird. Also, the Hypermarkets, whose predominant customer base are those who depend on autos and two-wheelers would find it taxing to come and shop here. And btw, Big Bazaar has its store close by – within a 3 km distance to be precise. Other than being a show piece, I wonder if they have any other reason to be here. And for the customers of premium Branded Retail stores – the car parking areas are just too far away. Wonder if that would put them off. Except if they have specifically come to shop at, say the iconic Calvin Klein.

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Firstly, does Bangalore need such a large Mall? With congested roads and consistently heavy traffic not just at the CBD but almost everywhere in the city, what we need are a number of neighbourhood malls – within a 4-5 sq km radius and within a 15-20 minute drive. And this everything under one roof doesn’t work as much. Bangalore, or most Indian cities do not attract a huge tourist population such as Dubai or Singapore. Nor are our prices globally competitive, rather more expensive. The semi-urban crowd that comes to the larger metros and cities rather stick to traditional shopping areas (Read: Downtown shopping centres, predominantly the semi-organized retail stores). The Mall also needs to attract 3-4 times what the best Mall in town attracts today – to support the single-digit conversions at its stores. For a Mall that is located so far off, it is anybody’s guess if the Mall or its tenants would do well in the first few years. Maybe over 3-4 years, the location would attract some traction.

Needless to say, the group has invested significantly and so have the Retailers. Here’s wishing them good luck in times to come.

25 January, 2012

Retail Store Opening Time

clock

I recently received an email from Reliance Mart that they would opening their stores at 8am! The email newsletter was a bit incomplete in most respects – it doesn’t talk of its existing store timing (including opening and closing) and the list of all stores or a contact number such as a Customer Care number or a Toll Free number. It is anybody’s guess why this particular retailer would want to open so early – given that it is a Hypermarket format. In the footer of the communication, the cities where they operate is mentioned, most of which are non-Metro cities, which I guess could be the main reason for this move. In metro cities, people (Read: consumers) leave to work by 8am and return back around 8pm, hence most of the modern shopping environments including Malls, Supermarkets, Hypermarkets and Specialty Retailers open their stores only by 11am. Also, this is a huge cost-saving for retailers – lower usage of electricity and other utilities; staff can work in a single shift; most importantly, it provides time to set-up the store in the mornings – stock fulfillments, “facings” of products on the shelves and a sound briefing session to the staff.

At Foodworld, (a Supermaket chain part of the erstwhile RPG Retail) when I used to work in Chennai 10 years ago, we experimented opening the store at 7am – really early by Organized Retail standards. But what we realised was that we built a strong loyalty among the local residents and the neighborhood. Customers started coming in early to pick up vegetables that would have landed fresh at the store; and along with bought a packet of bread and some milk. And a few other daily use things too! I remember, we used to interact with regular customers and they would feel happy to be at the store so early! I guess this is one area where Kiranas cleverly take a lead amongst Organized Retailers. A typical kirana store opens by 7am and starts brisk business early. And closes as late as 10.30 or even 11pm at times.

The Government’s rules and regulations are not helping Organized Retailers either. Law states that women employees (who contribute to a significant percentage of the work force in the front-end of Organized Retail in India) cannot work beyond 9pm and should be escorted back home by the employer. Almost no one follows this though, thanks to lax overseeing by the respective agencies and authorities. The retail stores cannot function beyond a certain timeline, which is 8.30pm in Kolkata, 9.30 pm in Chennai and so on. Recently, Star Bazaar, part of TRENT Retail (owned by the TATAs) and Total Hypermarkets, part of Jubilant Retail based out of Bangalore extended their store closing time to 12.00 midnight, a welcome move by regular customers who heaved a sigh of relief since they could comfortably shop during the late hours! Mustafa, a local retail giant in Singapore, for example, is open all night and sees regular customer flow all through! I was told that the contribution of business between 9pm and 8am is almost 20% since tourists hop by after the city closes down.

Mustafa Singapore

With FDI in single brand retail already in place, it is anybody’s guess if more and more Retailers would want to keep the stores open late night or open early since the International Giants might want to pump in more money and experiment if customers walk in late at night. While this may work for certain categories such as grocery, household, furniture, etc. it may be obvious that fashion is not something that could work. After all, that category of customers would we wining, dining and partying late night than shopping! Café chains such as Café Coffee Day, Barista, Costa, etc. keep their outlets open until late in the night while book store chains such as Crossword and Odyssey usually wind up early. The case may be a bit different at Airports, where a majority of International Travel happens during the night and therefore, most of the Retailers are open all through the day and night.

There are a few advantages for Retailers to have extended store opening time;

  • Customer Service – During the lean hours, Retailers can provide better customer service, a typical measure to increase conversions
  • Loyalty – Retailers could offer bonus loyalty points (if they are operating such a program) to those who shop during such a stipulated time
  • Understanding Consumer Behavior – Since customers would be shopping under a more relaxed environment, they may tend to show a better behavioral pattern which may be useful to Retailers
  • Targeted Promotions – Retailers and Brands could run specific promotions during such times to increase penetration of certain SKUs

The drawbacks though, would be;

  • Increased Operating Costs – Retailers would have to shell out additional salaries to staff who work during such extended times as well as incur other overheads
  • Sustenance – Such a move, if it is experimental only for a short while can dent the brand image of the retailer among customers, leaving them confused
  • Managing the network – If the Retailer has stores across multiple cities, then it may be forced to maintain uniformity across all locations

Having said that, I believe there are hardly few Retailers who would want to try this venture. For, success is not something that comes without repeated attempts!

06 January, 2012

End of Season! End of Party time?!?

Late 2009 was the time when one could see the slow down of the 2008 Economic slowdown in India. While rest of the world including America, Japan and parts of Europe were down with Recession (read: 2 Quarters of continued negative economic growth), India was seeing its GDP grow at a modest 7%. As Kishore Biyani, CEO Future Group once said in 2008, “Consumers are sitting on the fence, not really knowing when and what to spend”. How true, it was at that time. And then 2010 happened. Growth was the new buzz word and Retailers were back in action. New swanky stores, additional staffing, high-paid executives in the upper echelons and yes, a double digit same store sales growth which was being celebrated by one and all. All izzz well – the song from the movie “3 Idiots” was the most hummed song among the Retail fraternity thereafter for the next 18 months.

lifestylePhoto Courtesy: Times of India

Consumers who were holding on started buying new houses; furniture and furnishings for their new/old houses; Cars of all sizes – from an upgrade to a sedan to the first four-wheeler in the family; brown goods – LCDs and LEDs saw growth of over 100% for some brands! Refrigerators and Washing machines were flying off the shelves; Smartphones’ sales grew than those of normal phones; shoppers were buying more footwear and clothes, not just to show-off their wealth and happiness but because they could now afford to. Monthly grocery, which is an important metric to measure consumer confidence was growing at a healthy double digit. The confidence in consumer spending allowed Retailers and Brands to invest more and more – on new stores as well as higher targets. Unfortunately, the party seems to have ended abruptly.

(Suggested Reading: New Store Openings)

Lifestyle, India’s premier Department Store Chain was the first to announce EOSS – End of Season Sale last week. This came as a big surprise to the market – consumers aren’t complaining though. Central Malls, part of the Future Group and the largest mall chain in the country announced flash sales over the New Year Weekend, only to end up disappointing itself. Even brands like Levis which wait until Valentines announced “Sale” a day before. Spanish chain Zara, went on sale too, albeit it matches its International calendar where the end of season sale happens around Boxing Day and continues until Christmas. The new season in the West begins from January onwards. Most brands usually run on full price until Feb. 14, assuming shoppers would anyway buy, irrespective of the price-tag to fulfill their own wishes as that of their loved ones. This year seems to be an aberration.

Photo Courtesy: Times of IndiaZara

“The targets for the current year were ridiculously high; We pleaded the Management not to set such high, unrealistic targets but they were in no mood to listen, thanks to the high voltage sales that have happened over the past 4 seasons” – says the Area Sales Manager of a premium apparel brand, who requested anonymity, saying he was not the official spokesperson. The Unit-Head of one of India’s largest Department store chains quipped that the chain has more stores today in large cities and hence the pie doesn’t seem to be growing rather getting cannibalized. “Instead of increasing the customer base of loyalty members through marketing activities and TV ads, the Management is getting into deep discounting; we had one of the finest customer service staff 4 years ago, but I cannot claim so now; they (the CSAs) are paid 6-7000 bucks and obviously the quality of staff and their service has deteriorated.” This gentleman, whom I’ve known for over seven years now requested I don’t mention his name as he may even lose his job for saying so.

(Suggested Reading: Customer Service by Trial & Error)

“These days, people are walking to our stores, checking out the products and then buying online. 5 years ago, the larger players were threatening our livelihood, but these days, looks like the online players will wipe us out”, quips Ravindra, shop assistant at a leading electronic store in Bangalore. “FDI in Retail is a big threat for us; if the big international players step up their expansion like what I’ve seen in the Gulf over the past 15 years (read: Middle East), then we will all have to shut shop and find an alternative full-time job rather than running these departmental stores”, cries Syed Pasha who settled in East Bangalore 5 years ago after working in Sharjah for 15 years as a low-cost laborer.

Photo Courtesy: Times of IndiaLevis

So, is the party over already? The answer is a big NO. Retailers and Brands have to realize that short-term growth is no metric for long-term survival. Nor would E-Commerce players like Indiaplaza.com would take away their share of business. India is a one trillion dollar economy and is fundamentally a strong one, with its ability for self-sustenance. (Sale) Targets are an important part of the business but they are not the only ones to focus on. Most Retailers and EBOs of Brands need to step up customer service. Rather than pay lower and have more staff, they should consider paying higher salaries, mostly linked to sales and have lower staff on the floor who are efficient and effective in their output.

(Suggested Reading: What retailers can learn from the aviation crisis)

The Retail India Story has just begun; Internet Commerce is still under-penetrated at the moment. Retailers can and should take advantage of growing consumerism with better service with fewer stores. As always, Small is Beautiful.

28 October, 2011

Selling, Upselling and Unselling

Despite my request thrice, the staff of India’s first class airline forgot to sell me sandwiches and muffin, my first and most important meal of the day – Breakfast, while I was flying from Bangalore to Delhi (on work) last week. My first request was placed around 25 minutes after take-off, and I waved at her two times thereafter, but to my dismay and surprise, she seemed to have forgotten till the flight landed… And it was a 2.5 hour flight! Was it pure negligence or arrogance or forgetfulness – I don’t know, but for sure, a lost opportunity. What I may, if allowed can call “unselling”. In our (Retail) business, a lost consumption opportunity can never be recovered. After all, a breakfast meal (to the same person) cannot be served for lunch or dinner! On a quick calculation, I was stunned to note the business opportunity of selling on board – if, for example, an airline flies 100 flights a day, with an average of 100 pax per flight, and a 25% conversion @ Rs. 120 per person, it amounts to Rs. 3 lakhs per day or Rs. 100 crore per annum in topline! Well – that’s the potential opportunity and it all depends on how best the airline staff are able to sell. However, what the airline then needs are not air hosts and hostesses but air- salesmen and saleswomen! but why not? The airlines haven’t yet spotted this as an important opportunity (I Guess so, lest she would have sold my muffin!) and I am sure this is one market that F&B players cannot and shouldn’t miss. With minimum dwell time at airports (time spent between security checks and boarding), and with a healthy >25% conversion of pax at F&B outlets across Indian airport terminals, I wonder why this opportunity cannot be real. It is, indeed.

(Suggested Reading: Travel Retail and Luxury Retail at Airports)

Over the last weekend, India’s most consumed newspaper Times of India carried 20-30 page supplements across all major cities, most of which were advertisements by Retailers and Brands wooing shoppers to choose their respective locations and products while shopping this Diwali. Prominent advertisers included large retailers such as The Future Group (Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Central Malls, EZone, Home Town), Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Croma, Reliance Retail, etc. What was interesting was most Retailers were promoting “bill value” based promotions – a clear tactic to entice shoppers to spend a little extra – what we popularly call as “Upselling”. This could be on and off the ground – while advertisements promote the idea, it is the sales’ staff who finally “close the sale’ and hence are the messengers by the Retailers to convince shoppers to spend more. Unsurprisingly, sales grew between 25% – 45% across various Retail stores. Electronics and Furniture took centre stage this time (specifically for promotions) while apparel and accessories including Jewellery, Watches, etc. were assumed to be sure-shot purchases for the festive season.

(Suggested Reading: Consumer Driven)

Upselling is an art, taught and trained to Retail staff right from the time they join in their roles and all through their career. It’s a bit like negotiation, pushing customers to buy more. While this is expected of every staff towards every customer who walks into the store, it is emphasized especially during festive times to increase the bill values – the amount spent by a customer on his / her shopping bill.

 

Gift Vouchers

While “gifts” of a certain perceived value are given away if the customer achieves a certain amount of bill, other tactics have also been used over time – gift vouchers being the most common one. The advantage with gift vouchers is that the shopper has to return back to the store once again and encash it or utilize the voucher for part-payment and that too, within a certain time frame. The average amount spent over and above the value of Gift Vouchers ranges between 20-35% and goes up to 70% in some cases. They are also transferable, and can hence be passed on to loved ones. This festive season, Reliance Trends is providing coupons worth Rs. 3,000 for a shopping value of the same amount.

(Suggested Reading: Gift Vouchers)

By-Products

This is a smart tactic used, especially in the Electronics business. While a battery charger and headphones are in-built with the original packaging (in most cases), the retailer or the brand could throw in an additional accessory, say a screen guard or a Bluetooth ™ headset along with a mobile phone! Instead of providing a cheap one, Samsung upsells with a Samsung Bluetooth™ headset for just Rs. 500 (MRP Rs. 899) at select retail stores including at Ezone and 50% off on other accessories for its Galaxy Tablet. Great way to engage shoppers to spend more!

Buy One Get One

An age-old tactic to upsell, this is the most common (yet boring) phenomenon one can find. Giordano offers another wrist watch when you buy one! Works well for couples who want a new one for themselves but the designs may be limited. However, it also works as a worthy gift. Last year, I bought an Esprit ladies watch as a gift and I got myself a fabric-strap sporty watch from Puma which I use while cycling. Needless to say, one can always find utilities how to use the free product.

Scratch and win!

Some Retailers offer a promotion scheme where every shopper who attains a certain bill value gets to scratch a card (or crush a fortune cookie) and wins a gift as mentioned in it. The gifts may range from gift vouchers to small home utensils to accessories or even a motor bike or a car or a house! The excitement in this case is pretty high, with each shopper hoping to win something big. Atleast, there is no disappointment that one didn’t get the big fish! SPAR, world’s largest F&B Retailer is offering a similar proposition to enable more shoppers to buy more!

(Suggested Reading: National Shopping Day!)

Shop and win!

Central Malls, India’s largest Mall chain is offering a Toyota Etios (car) and a Harley Davidson (Motorbike) to be won when you shop and participate in a lucky draw! By far, the most exciting, tried-and-tested promotion globally to attract shoppers. An average middle class shopper, irrespective of whether he / she owns a car or a bike (no matter how many) wouldn’t decline an offer to own one more, especially if it is free of cost. The only catch – the winner has to pay road taxes and insurance, which may cost a few thousands. However, this sort of promotion, a raffle to say is among the ones that excite shoppers the most. Airports worldwide, including Singapore, Dubai, Heathrow, Frankfurt etc., offer luxury and high-end cars to be won for a few bucks that is spent at their airport shops. No matter, what – people buy! And buy more, and in this case, upselling just works.

(Also Read: Central Realigns the City!)

Diwali is gone, but the offers are still on! Festivals would come and go buy upselling continues. Retailers must spend a lot of time encouraging their staff to upsell, rather to talk to potential customers, to begin with. These days, many shop assistants feel they are paid to stand (there are well-dressed mannequins already) and usually talk with each other but move to a corner when a shopper walks by. Store Managers would do well for themselves if they lead by example. I have done so, many years back encouraging shoppers to buy bread when they come to buy their morning milk, to try a new range of ketchup when they are looking for noodles at Foodworld.

It’s possible. Just needs a bit of push. By each of us! Happy Selling… errr… Upselling…

03 October, 2011

Dasera – Diwali Dhamaka for Retailers

A former colleague of mine, a Swiss gentleman once quipped that everyday in India is a festival day! Well, he was right in a way, maybe not quite literally though. With so many religions and diverse cultures, indeed every day may have some form of festival in India…

This October month is one of those rare ones – that benefit Grocery Retailers, typically supermarket and hypermarket chains like Food Bazaar, Reliance, Spencer's, More, SPAR, EasyDay and others. Navaratri / Dasera, which commenced on 27th Sep continues into the first week of October and Diwali will be celebrated during the last week of the month. Typically, the monthly Grocery shopping happens once a month, usually in the last week of the month gone by or during the first week of the current month. But in this case, families would have to shop twice, and probably more quantities than usual – roughly 1.5 to 2 times the average quantities. Navaratri is celebrated in different forms and signify different things for people across the country. in Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka, families set-up dolls at home – popularly known as the “Kolu”. During this period, Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are prayed and celebrated three days each. Every evening, women folk and children visit houses of neighbours and are fed with “sundal” – the nine grains, one each every day. Now – this category is shopped for extensively before the festival commences which may not be consumed so much otherwise through the year. Also, the visitors are gifted small household articles usually made of plastic and this category also sees an increase in sales during the period. Fruits, which are distributed benevolently, see a surge in price and hence consumers prefer shopping at Supermarkets and Hypermarkets for a better bargain.

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In Gujarat and West Bengal, it is more a societal occasion. While Hindus celebrate it the most, people across all walks of life join into the celebrations. While “Dandiya” – an art form of dance is the most happening one in Gujarat, the Bengalis install huge “Pandals” which showcase Goddess Durga in different forms. People visit Pandals day and night and wear new clothes (in Bengal) while late evening Dandiya sessions are regular during the week. And obviously, new clothes are something that every one looks forward to! Even Western / Foreign brands (like Benetton seen below) join in the festivities by promoting themselves during this period.

Just around the corner is Diwali – the festival of lights and the biggest grosser for Retailers across categories. This festival is also celebrated in its unique way across the country. While families shop for Electronics and Gadgets, Home Furniture, Clothing and Accessories, sweets for distribution and consumption is a big hit too. Retailers and Brands have already started advertising for the ensuing Diwali as well and is expected to step up their promotions starting this weekend.

If there is one category that sees a low, it’s liquor and alcoholic beverages. People generally refrain from visiting bars / consuming such beverages due to the ensuing festivities but things are indeed changing. And hopefully, this category will support Retailers in November which is expected to be one of the lowest months  for business since there are not major festivals (duh) until the Christmas season commences. Anyway, wishing each one of you Seasons’ Greetings and of course, Happy Shopping!

31 May, 2011

Hypermarkets–The latest poster boy of Modern Retail

The first thought that came to my mind was – “Will this store be THE game changer for this Mall?” Not that it had weak anchors otherwise, but somehow this store, I believe would attract most number of footfalls. Time will prove, and I hope my assessment would be correct in this case too. I am referring to HyperCITY from the K Raheja Group which opened a few weeks back at Royal Meenakshi Mall - Hulimavu, a lesser known suburb in South-East Bangalore which houses one of the largest new-age residential settlements of those who are employed in IT, ITES and the BPO Industries, mainly due to the cost effective availability of housing requirements as well as reasonable accessibility in terms of time and distance to their respective workplaces. A maiden attempt by a group of enterprising entrepreneurs, I would say this is another brilliant model for Neighbourhood malls – self sustained with most aspects of modern retail within its precincts. Other anchors include Cineapolis, the Mexico based multiplex chain with its first cinema in South India, CROMA – the electronics store from Tata Retail (TRENT) and many others.

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The store is located on the upper ground floor facing the main entrance and the lower ground floor of the mall with direct access to the basement parking areas – a smart move by the Retailer to encourage shoppers to enter the store directly after they park their vehicles.  However, after finishing their shopping from the Upper ground floor, one would have to pass through the lower floor to access their cars – a bit of walking around the store though, which could be inconvenient during peak shopping hours. The store is well laid out – the lower ground floor offers Grocery and other Home needs while the upper ground floor with all other categories including Electronics, Toys, Apparel, Furniture, even Bicycles and many more. My guess is that the lower ground would remain more crowded – for two reasons; one that it has brilliant view from outside and would naturally attract mall visitors, and two that it houses the core categories which shoppers would come looking to save for – grocery, fruits and vegetables and household items. What I liked the most was the “fresh section” – Maybe it was the first day and hence everything looked very nicely displayed but still, the way the categories were planned was commendable. Also, they are located deep within the store, another smart idea to pull customers inside and thereby making them walk through the store. Meat & Poultry located close by could prove to be a disadvantage if the exhausts and HVAC are not maintained well – an issue that many retailers are trying to grope with.

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The store interiors are typical of a Hyper – no false roofing, basic tiles on the floor, tube-lights running through the length and breadth of the store and focus lights on merchandise that’s on offer. While it does reduce the Capex to a large extent, it also showcases the store as being simple and straightforward – a stark contrast to the luxury stores at high-end malls that sometimes stink of grandeur and austerity! After all, hypermarkets should also look what they profess – savings, savings and savings. And HyperCITY is indeed very good at it. On the store launch, Mark Ashman, CEO, HyperCity Retail (India) Ltd, told the media, “HyperCity is committed to fulfilling the aspirations of the local people by providing them a world-class shopping experience. Our customers will enjoy the convenience of international shopping from over 44,000 products at great value under one roof.” And all this over a mere 60,000 sft.!

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With their continued focus on convenience, experience, quality and savings, there is something that this Retailer has been doing right. Apart from stacking the right merchandise, I guess its the speed at which they have been growing. Often accused (not in a real sense though) of being slow in terms of store expansion and growth, HyperCITY has got its act right. With only 10 stores across the country, the group has managed to understand the business well – they have opened at interesting catchments across cities to ensure that they are not just in the race to grab market share but also to make money at the store level. With an investment of upto INR 2 Crores per store, the Retailer has been cautious about its overall Operational profitability which seems to be getting better by the day. Specific to this Mall, none other than the Hyper is going to be the the main anchor that would attract thousands of shoppers every month! Those who come to shop would indeed pass through the other Retail stores, Food Courts & Restaurants and m\Movies would complete the entertainment bit as well. This store is not an exception, but Hypers would become the Poster boy of Modern Retail and the Darling of Mall Developers soon.

A Firefly finally takes off

Monday - 22 Jan. ‘24 is a very important day in my professional life. I complete eight months today in my role as Executive Vice President a...