Subway to Open 1,000 Stores in India by 2015

Quick service restaurant chain Subway today said it plans to operate 1,000 stores in India by 2015 through franchise route, which will entail an investment of $58 million (over . 300 crore).

The Connecticut headquartered brand is present in 50 Indian cities with 263 franchisee-run restaurants across the country. Commenting on the potential of the market, Subway President and Cofounder Fred DeLuca said: “India is a promising business destination with a young, educated population having growing disposable income.”

Subway will continue to evolve and adapt its product offerings to suit the Indian taste and plans to grow here through franchise route, he said in a statement. While the investment of $58 million (over . 300 crore) to set up the planned number of stores will be made by franchisees, Subway will invest in providing training and technical know how to its partners.

The brand is aiming to expand aggressively in tier-II and tier-III locations. The planned expansion will generate employment opportunities for another 15,000 people, the statement said.— PTI

Retailers see smaller outlets as the next big thing.

Bigger is not always better. Just ask the biggest retailers in the country — and their customers.

Neng Yang, left, purchases a new phone at the Best Buy Mobile mini-store at Independence, Mo., with her brothers Cheng Yang and John Yang, right.

 Neng Yang, left, purchases a new phone at the Best Buy Mobile mini-store at Independence, Mo., with her brothers Cheng Yang and John Yang, right.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To Neng Yang, the Best Buy store in Independence, Mo., is just too overwhelming — so much so that she only shops there once a year, at the holidays.

So when she needed a new cellphone, she bypassed the 55,000-square-foot store with its many departments — appliances, big-screen TVs, computers, cameras, car audio, video and music. Instead, she stopped across the street at the Best Buy Mobile store.

The slimmed-down 850-square-foot sister store concentrates only on mobile devices.

“I ask about a thousand questions, and this is more personalized, more one-on-one attention,” said Yang of Blue Springs, Mo.

Yang bought a white Droid Razr, and her brother John Yang picked up a black one.

Bigger is not always better. Just ask the biggest retailers in the country — and their customers.

The recession and the growth of online shopping have conspired to cut chains down to size. One strategy they’ve employed has been to close underperforming stores. But Best Buy and an increasing number of companies are trying another strategy too — going smaller.

Among the retailers testing smaller concepts are Blockbuster, Ann Taylor, Gap, Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Sports Authority. RadioShack even is trying a “store-within-a-store” format in several OfficeMax stores in California.

Lower square footage makes for lower construction and remodeling costs, and that also tends to make them easier to finance. The smaller locations have less overhead costs and can be manned by fewer employees.

The small size also gives the chains more flexibility in locations, allowing them to squeeze into heavily developed urban centers, and compact spaces in airports, college campuses and strip centers. If the location isn’t successful, the chains can close the sites with less financial fallout.

“For a decade it was ‘build it and they will come,’ ” said Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail in New York.

“It’s definitely a correction for retailers as well as restaurants, a direct result of consumers not having as much to spend on the extras. The strategy has to be to reduce your costs to offset less traffic. Usually that means less rent, shrinking retail and restaurants,” Corlett said.

Jeff Green, president of Jeff Green Partners, Phoenix-based real-estate consultants, has long criticized the “bigger is better” movement.

“They think the bigger they are the more exciting they are and that’s not necessarily the case, as Apple has proven,” Green said.

“Consumers like the smaller stores, like to be part of a ‘happening,’ and smaller stores have that feel.”

When retailers like Ann Taylor, Chico’s and the Gap opened larger stores, they didn’t necessarily see an equivalent rise in sales, if any rise at all, that would justify the added expense, Green said.

“Any retailer that is opening larger and larger stores, I question their long-term viability,” Green said. “Costco and Sam’s Club defy that theory. That’s because consumers really perceive them as great values and value trumps the inconvenience of size.”

One of the latest retailers to embrace small stores is Cabela’s. On Feb. 16, the outdoor-equipment and sporting-goods retailer said it would open its first Cabela’s Outpost Store this fall in Union Gap, just south of Yakima; up to three more are planned for next year.

The Outpost stores will be significantly smaller than traditional Cabela’s: about 40,000 square feet compared with, say, the 185,000-square-foot Cabela’s in Lacey, Thurston County.

Cabela’s also has plans to open an 110,000-square-foot store this year at Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip Tribes Indian reservation. And it will target smaller markets — 250,000 people or less with a high concentration of them already Cabela’s customers.

Best Buy introduced its mobile locations in 2007 and there are about 260 nationwide, including the Independence Best Buy Mobile store, which opened in August. Best Buy has about 1,100 full-size stores.

“The customer wants a different shopping experience. We don’t work on commission, and we carry everybody,” said Kyle Cochran, manager of the Independence store, which is tucked between two specialty stores on the lower level of the Independence Center mall.

Still, consumers who have come to know a brand as a “category killer” might be confused by the new concept.

The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Stores are designed to provide shoppers with a quick, convenient stop for fresh produce, dairy items, and pharmacy products at low prices. The grocery stores are about 29,000 square feet compared with a 142,000-square-foot supercenter.

But some grocery store shoppers still expect to see the large selections of products Wal-Mart is known for.

Carolyn Shaw of Shawnee, Kan., was disappointed in the holiday selection at a Wal-Mart Neighborhood store earlier this month during a morning stop in a snowstorm.

“They didn’t have many Valentine’s items,” Shaw said. “Now I’ll have to go back out this afternoon to a bigger Wal-Mart.”

Boston Pizza drafts smaller stores for smaller markets

One of Canada’s biggest casual restaurant brands is warming up expansion plans for smaller cities and rural communities with the launch of a smaller-store prototype.

Boston Pizza International’s new smaller-scale store design, at about 4,100 square feet, is expected to make it “more affordable than ever to own a Boston Pizza franchise,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

The new store template is an opportunity “perfect for markets that were previously challenging due to market size or real estate availability,” said Ken Otto, the Toronto-based chain’s chief operating officer.

“One of our core pillars is a focus on franchisee profitability. This new prototype delivers against this by offering a reduced size model that is perfect for smaller communities.”

In terms of occupancy, the new space would allow for 140 seats with a 50-seat patio and would include both the “welcoming family restaurant and… lively sports bar” now seen in the chain’s larger outlets.

By comparison, the typical Boston Pizza building currently takes up 6,000-6,500 square feet, with capacity for 180-225 seats plus patio seating for 50-75.

“We believe a multi-channel approach to real estate and development is the best way to expand the Boston Pizza brand and extend our dominance in the casual dining category,” Otto said Thursday.

The company in recent months also made moves to expand its presence beyond the suburban landscape where it’s most often now seen, by developing stores in “prime urban locations” across the country and in “non-traditional” sites such as hotels, sports venues and strip malls.

“We are looking at building on the success of our urban prototype in Toronto in other major markets as well as growing through the opening of new stores in smaller, more rural communities that we haven’t entered yet,” Otto said.

Born out of an Edmonton restaurant, Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House, in 1964, the company — which then included 44 stores — was bought in 1983 by then-franchisee Jim Treliving and partner George Melville, who oversaw its expansions into Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The chain, which booked gross sales of $853 million in 2010, also began southward expansion in 2000 under the name Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza, now including about 50 U.S. outlets and three in Mexico.

Coinstar looks for the next big thing in automated retail.

Coinstar’s Redbox business began 2010 by renting out more movie DVDs and Blu-ray discs in the first three months than Blockbuster — a major milestone cast as David toppling Goliath.

Nine months later, Blockbuster had gone belly up, and Redbox was second only to Netflix as a source of inexpensive movie rentals, solidifying its place as a dominant player in the U.S. home-entertainment market.

At the end of 2010, Redbox operated 30,200 self-service machines dispensing movie DVDs for a dollar a day at supermarkets, drugstores, fast-food restaurants and other places shoppers regularly visit. Redbox took in nearly $1.2 billion last year, accounting for 80 percent of Coinstar’s total revenue.

Bellevue-based Coinstar began buying into Redbox in 2005, when it was a fledgling McDonald’s venture, and took full ownership in 2009.

Although Coinstar has since sold businesses unrelated to Redbox and its namesake coin-counting machines, it continues to look for the next big thing in automated retail.

Redbox, for example, will add video-game rentals costing $2 a day to more than 21,000 locations nationwide by July 1.

Also, Coinstar has injected an undisclosed amount of money into ecoATM, a new venture that seeks to provide a convenient way for people to get cash for their old electronic devices, such as cellphones and iPods.

Still, whether 2011 has a happy ending for Coinstar could depend on what Redbox does next.

Some on Wall Street have grown impatient with Redbox’s indeterminate plans to introduce a video-streaming service on top of physical disc rentals.

In February, Redbox President Mitch Lowe told analysts the company was getting closer to finding an online partner for an unlimited streaming offer to take on Netflix. But the company has said only that full details will be released this year.

Meet Groupon’s Indian rival Snapdeal

Until January last year, Wharton graduate Kunal Bahl and his IIT batchmate Rohit Bansal could be spotted across restaurants and retail outlets in Delhi suburbs trying to sell discount coupons to both owners and their potential customers. 

At 25, Bahl had quit his cushy Microsoft job based in Seattle and even convinced his IIT Delhi alumni Bansal to take a leap of faith in 2007. “We used to wait for hours in the heat outside small restaurants, where we wouldn’t have eaten even if we had to pay,” says Bahl.

When a restaurant owner told the duo earlier last year that he had got five customers from their website Jasper Infotech, it became an inflection point for Bahl. He launched Snapdeal.com — now popularly called India’s answer to Groupon, the world’s biggest provider of daily online deals.

Since January this year, Snapdeal has been growing its revenues at over 100%, selling unused inventories of everything from sunglasses, wallets and even travel packages, totalling over 10,000 discounted deals everyday. “We sold about 2,200 Reebok Sunglasses, in a day, at an 80% discount deal.

About 400 packages to Kerala were sold in February. Our model is to go after unsold distress inventory,” says Bahl who along with Bansal had to shell out $3000 for buying the Snapdeal.in domain name — an investment that’s paying off well.

Along with Taggle, MyDala and Koovs.com, Indian e-commerce is now seeing a rise of young companies attempting to woo customers online with lucrative deals. The model is quite similar to how Groupon makes revenues (or losses at the last count). Snapdeal.com charges about 35% upfront for any deal.

The rest has to be paid directly to the merchant on delivery of service or good. The employees job is to get discount deals from mer-chants. They also handle customer calls and delivery of products. With 400 staff on the payroll, Bansal and Bahl want to get a share of India’s $500 billion retail market, of which nearly 18% is services business offered by sites like Snapdeal.

Globally, Groupon created waves earlier this year when it was valued at around $1.35 billion. Snapdeal too attracted attention of the legendarySilicon Valley investor Vinod Dham in February last year. Both Dham and Bazee.com co-founder Suvir Sujan invested nearly $12 million.

The website plans to close at over Rs 100 crore in revenues by December, within a year of its starting up. “It’s the two years we spent slogging at small shops in Delhi, trying to persuade them to buy our scheme is what is helping us. After all discount and group buying sites existed before we came in,” says Bahl, his hair uncluttered, as if not slept in days. Right now, Dealoftheday.com, Letsbuy.com and Groupon owned Sosasta.com, are all competitors.

But Snapdeal claims to have 70% share. “Our first priority was to make our brand felt across India,” says Bahl. Mumbai local trains are now painted with Snapdeal ads. In Bangalore, government buses which ferry IT workers are covered head to toe with Snapdeal banners. The multi-storeyed CyberCity towers in Gurgaon have large Snapdeal hoardings too. “The eight-lakh strong jungle of IT workers in Cybercity in Gurgaon is just the audience we need,” he says.

In the middle of the floor, just outside Bahl’s cabin is an LCD screen, which shows a seven-digit number moving faster than the clock. The company just crossed five million registrations this month. “Our target audience is between 18 and 35 years who loved to spend on the nice to have things like a good restaurant dinner, a soothing spa, or a pair of luxury sunglasses.

The distributors who are not able to sell directly sell at rock bottom prices through our medium,” he says. The discounts are heavy — up to 90% on the maximum retail price. Snapdeal charges upfront about 35% of the amount of the deal, for which the user has to pay online. “Even if a user is not able to avail the service or product due to any reason, at least he has not paid the whole amount,” says Bahl.

The company has now overtaken LivingSocial in last three months in terms of number of visitors, as per Alexa.com, to become the most visited group buying site just behind Groupon.com. “We are now getting offers for acquisition running into amounts so high, that we won’t have to work a single day in our lives,” says Bahl who together with Rohit and the management team owns 50% of Snapdeal.

Websites like MakeMytrip have partnered with Snapdeal to sell unsold inventory, for instance unsold seats on a chartered plane to Bhutan, which it can’t do on its own website. “I have already made it clear that even if I wasn’t owning the website, I would rather enjoy working for it as it’s so exciting,” says Bahl, just back from a trip to Darjeeling. Bought from Snapdeal, where else?

New £24m food court planned for Merry Hill Shopping centre.

Westfield’s new Eat Central area at the Merry Hill Shopping centre, has been in the planning stages for more than two years.

Nandos, Hey Potato, KFC and Nineteen Ten Mexican Kitchen have signed up to be part of the new development, which will comprise 16 food outlets and three restaurants with open plan kitchens and grills.

Neil Huntington, development director for Westfield, said: “We are delighted to announce the project and these signings. Interest in the scheme has been solid and we expect to announce more names very soon.

“The success of the dining offers at Westfield Derby and Westfield London show the potential to evolve the traditional ‘food court’ model. At Merry Hill we plan to attract a fascinating mix of contemporary and traditional operators, combining tastes from around the world to make sure there is something for everyone.”

The restaurants will face a new centre entrance and car park – which will be themed with street-side dining and landscaping.

Giant Eagle’s beer requests worry Western Pennsylvania outlets Buzz up!

Giant Eagle is bringing the battle over supermarket beer sales to the Pittsburgh region, with a plan to sell six-packs from restaurants inside some of its stores.

As food chains nationwide boost brew sales, the O’Hara grocery chain is asking the state Liquor Control Board to transfer a restaurant liquor license to a Giant Eagle Market District store expected to open this fall at the new Settlers Ridge development in Robinson. Giant Eagle is pursuing other licenses, including one for a store in Pine.

Wegmans and other grocers in the state have opened cafe-style areas in some stores that sell six-packs of beer along with other beverages. The small, in-store restaurants allow them to take advantage of recent legal interpretations of Pennsylvania’s restrictive liquor code, which bars most sales from grocery stores.

Now it’s Giant Eagle’s turn.

Spokesman Dick Roberts said Giant Eagle has yet to work out some details, such as what brands of beer it might sell, but one thing’s certain: Pennsylvania’s licensed beer distributors will fight before the Robinson store or others ring up their first sales.

The Malt Beverage Distributors Association is challenging each license transfer to go before the LCB. A board hearing examiner will schedule a public hearing in the Pittsburgh area before a final vote on Giant Eagle’s license for the Robinson supermarket, said LCB spokeswoman Francesca Chapman.

Mary Lou Hogan, executive secretary and counsel for the Philadelphia-based distributors association, said grocery chains are stripping away beer sales from neighborhood businesses that only can sell it by the case or keg, without having to follow the same rules such as limits on hours.

Peggy Alston worries sales will fall at her family’s Pike Beverage Outlet, a distributorship about two miles from Giant Eagle’s Settlers Ridge site.

“I’m not allowed to sell flowers or groceries or baked goods for extra income, but Sheetz and then Wegmans and now Giant Eagle can get licenses to sell beer,” she said. “It’s another slap in the face for small businesses, and for the customers it will mean limited choice and service.”

Another nearby Giant Eagle supermarket sends customers from other states who are used to buying beer in grocery stores to her business, Alston said.

Nationwide beer sales last year weakened in bars, restaurants and other businesses where customers typically drink on-site, while they increased 1.2 percent in grocery and convenience stores, the Beer Institute said.

“Beer and wine sales are critically important to supermarket sales,” said retail analyst Burt P. Flickinger III. While the profit margin on most groceries might be 1 or 2 cents on the dollar, he said, it averages 3 to 4 cents on beer sales.

Pennsylvania’s liquor laws hurt consumers, regional brewers such as Lawrenceville’s Iron City Brewing Co. and grocers, he said.

“When you have one of the most inefficient distribution systems in America, it adds tremendous costs for consumers and it penalizes the sales and operating profits of food retailers who, were they able to sell beer, could compete more effectively with the Wal-Marts and Sam’s and other big players,” he said.

Consumers, too, have differing opinions.

“Buying beer and wine (at the supermarket) is like getting milk and bread,” said Rob Hornison of Hempfield.

Colleen Friedline, 55, of Export opposes loosening liquor restrictions.

“There’s enough temptation for people to go out and get drunk, to ruin their lives and the lives of their families … and kill other people,” she said.

Pennsylvania’s restrictions on beer sales are thought to be the second-tightest in the nation, behind Utah, said Cris Hoel, a Pittsburgh attorney who has represented alcohol trade associations and grocery chains, but isn’t involved in the cases here.

The state’s tough stance on liquor, including its controlled beer-distribution system, dates to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, when states were told to set their own laws.

Then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot, an ardent alcohol foe, reluctantly accepted its legalization.

“He did his best to make sure the laws were as harshly worded as they could be,” Hoel said. “We’re still living with the remnants of that today.”

Subsequent attempts to loosen controls went nowhere. Gov. Dick Thornburgh ran into opposition from religious and other groups in 1981, when he tried to sell off state liquor stores. Later privatization attempts by Gov. Tom Ridge in 1997 and, most recently, state Sen. Rob Wonderling, R-Montgomery County, failed.

Hoel noted one reason for maintaining the status quo: Pennsylvania’s wine and liquor sales generated $1.76 billion last year, putting $433 million into the state Treasury.

With the licenses it’s seeking, Giant Eagle couldn’t sell alcoholic beverages on shelves, as it does in Ohio. The Pennsylvania stores would partition off areas with at least 400 square feet that seat 30 or more people, serve food prepared on site and ring up their own sales.

Customers could buy the equivalent of up to two six-packs to carry out or order a beer or glass of wine to drink at the restaurant.

Wegmans was the first supermarket chain to open restaurants and sell beer in Eastern Pennsylvania, and Commonwealth Court in February upheld the licenses. The beer distributors association is waiting for the state Supreme Court to decide whether it will consider a further appeal.

Wegmans has obtained or is applying for licenses for 14 stores, according to the Liquor Control Board’s Web site. In addition to Giant Eagle’s applications, Weis Markets and Whole Foods Markets are moving toward beer sales in Pennsylvania.

The license for Giant Eagle’s Robinson store is the first to go before the LCB for approval. Supervisors in Pine, where a large, new-concept Giant Eagle opened in February, have scheduled a May 4 public hearing on a license transfer.

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