Retail marketing revolution

THE RETAIL MARKETING REVOLUTION By 2010, the list of India’s top 10 retailers will have at least 5 Indian corporate. Retail Marketing will go through a tremendous change in India this millennium. It will change India’s cities, its people, and its households. The Indian consumer is reportedly the largest spender in Singapore and London. It is, therefore, strange that there have, so far, been few efforts to present the product in the right kind ofenvironmentin India. Indeed, the right shopping experience does induce Indian consumers to spend more.

This is evident from the experiences of retail-outlets like Shoppers’ Stop, MusicWorld, FoodWorld, Crosswords, The Home Store, Ebony, Bigjo’s, Saboos, Standard, Vijay Store and Janaki Das & Sons, Westside etc. However, the development of organized retail is dependent on the efforts of several agencies and institutions. The first among these is the government. In a country as big as India and with as many states as ours, it is imperative that the Central government and all state governments bring in Value Added Taxation or a unified taxation system to ensure that the tax-regimes are the same across the country.

The laws governing retail real estate should also be looked into, so that it is possible to develop retail-estate beyond the city-limits. Apart from providing entertainment and retail opportunities, this will also decongest the city center and facilitate the development of suburbs. The relevant rules should also be amended to allow retail-stores to operate 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. Given the hours most urban consumers keep at work, and keeping in mind the increase in the number of nuclear families, this may, indeed, make sense. This will also help people enjoy their evenings, out at malls.

The second group, whose participation is essential in making retail a boom-sector in this millennium, comprises developers. Most properties are developed without considering the end user; thus, we sometimes find high-ceilinged offices and low-ceilinged retail stores. Often, the shopper’s convenience is not taken into consideration while the property is constructed. Another area of concern is the way in which developers sell their space. The only consideration is the price, not the usage pattern or the nature of the product that is to be sold.

In contrast, internationally, mall-management is treated as a specialized discipline of retail management. This is what we have to focus on in this millennium. The third constituency that has a role to play in the fortunes of organized retail this century is theeducation-sector. Retail is a people-intensive business, and there is a huge opportunity for retail institutes in India. For manufacturers, retailing will present an attractive opportunity. Organized retail allows them to expose their products to a large volume of customers in an environment conducive to buying.

Already, several transnational retail giants have established their presence in India; others, notably Chinese retailers, have visited India and studied the Indian market. There’s a lot at stake here: even so early in the 21st Century, India is too large a market to be ignored by transnational retail giants. From the manufacturing company’s perspective, the focus should be on producing good products, and forging relationships with organized retail. Manufacturers need to draw a plan of producing quality products and tie in with retailers.

Indeed, the birth of organized retail will also engender the creation of private labels and store-brands. Thus, if a manufacturing company lacks the resources to build a brand, it can supply to a retail-chain that has the resources to create a brand of its own. A glimpse of the last 2 decades of the previous century proves illuminating. Large-format retailing started with outlets like Vivek’s and Nalli’s in Chennai and Kidskemp in Bangalore, and, at another level, with manufacturer-retail brands like Bata, Bombay Dyeing, and Titan.

The last decade of the millennium witnessed the emergence of lifestyle brands and the plasticculture. Liberalization and increasing awareness of the world around us created the Indian yuppie, who aspired to own everything we saw on TV, or in shops during jaunts abroad. New lifestyle brands offered traditional retail-outlets an opportunity to convert themselves into exclusive stores, franchised or otherwise. And even as these developments were taking place, the Indian consumer became more mature.

Customer-expectations zoomed Thus, at the beginning of the New Millennium, retailers have to deal with a customer who is extremely demanding. Not just in terms of the product-quality, but also in terms of service, and the entire shopping experience. Today, the typical customer who shops in a retail outlet compares the time spent at the check-out counter with that at an efficient petrol station, and the smile of the counter-person to that decorating the face of a Jet Airways’ crew member.

To cope with the new customer, manufacturers have to focus on product quality and brand building. And retailers, in turn, have to focus on the quality of the shopping experience. Internationally, retailing is a large business; you find at least one retailer amongst the top 10 companies in every country. In the US, it is Wal-Mart with a turnover in excess of $ 120 billion. In the UK, it is Marks and Spencer’s with close to ? 10 billion; and, in Germany, it is Karstadt with a turnover in excess of dm 10 billion.