Supermarkets Make a Tryst with Record Sales on Independence Day

Top retail chains posted their highestever weekly sales in the six days to Independence Day, when heavy discount offers lured buyers to splurge on daily household products, apparels and consumer durables.

Retailers such as Future Group, Reliance Retail, Bharti Retail, RPG Group’s Spencer and K Raheja Corp’s HyperCITY — helped by active participation of several consumer product companies — offered deep discounts across product categories to push volumes at a time when consumer spending is slowing and there are fears of poor monsoon rains impacting demand.
“Consumers are looking at savings more than ever before,” said Rakesh Biyani, joint MD of the country’s largest retailer, Future Group, whose 164 Big Bazaar outlets across some 90 cities saw more than 8.1 million visitors during the week ended August 15. “We have been working to integrate our supply chain to bring down prices as far as possible.”
Several suppliers, including Coca-Cola, Britannia and Procter & Gamble, participated in special Independence week deals, helping retailers to offer higher discounts than before.
Darshana Shah, business head for marketing at HyperCITY, a hypermarket format run by Shoppers Stop, said increased vendor participation as well as entire malls going for sales helped pull in the crowds. “The sale was definitely better this year as we had stronger and bigger deals since market sentiment was soft,” she said. HyperCITY also increased its spend on marketing this year at around 2% of overall sales. During the week, Big Bazaar outlets sold more than 1.4 lakh packs of a combination of 5 kg of rice and sugar each with 5 litre of edible oil, and more than 1,500 tonnes of detergent. LED TVs, mixer-grinders and induction cookers were among the other top sellers at Big Bazaar, officials said.
Spencer’s Retail said its same-store sales increased 24% year-on-year during August 11-15, driven by beverages, health and beauty, bakery products and staples that saw over 30% sales growth. Sales of FMCG household products grew over 50% while liquor sales rose 30%, Sanjay Gupta, executive director (marketing & business development) at Spencer’s Retail, said.
Such discounting, however, reflects the escalating pressure on retailers, whose sales are slowing during non-discounted periods. “Because of the slowdown sentiment, consumers have been withholding purchases, so companies are trying to push volumes through discount seasons at retail chains,” said Mayank Shah, group product manager at Parle Products, the country’s largest biscuit maker.
But those volumes come at the cost of bottom lines, he added. Earlier this month, credit rating agency Fitch said same-store sales growth of retailers slipped across lifestyle and value-based formats in the quarter ended June, adding that it expects retailers to combat slowing sales by offering discounts.
“However, this may lead to an erosion of gross margins,” Fitch said, while revising the outlook for the Indian retail sector to negative from stable for the first half of this fiscal due to sustained decline in the discretionary spending ability. A slew of factors such as economic slowdown, deepening crisis in Europe, high food and fuel prices has impacted consumer sentiment in the country, slowing sales of everything from cars to carpets.
Some retailers use inflation as a marketing tool. A case in point is Bharti Retail’s “freedom from inflation” campaign at Easyday stores, which help people fight inflation by providing quality merchandise at low prices. Retailers such as Reliance Retail used the week to increase their customer base. Reliance introduced discount offers such as ‘double the difference’ price guarantees across various product categories.

It’s No Longer Kirana Versus Modern Retail

While neighbourhood stores have been growing in single digits since 2006, modern trade has had double-digit growth, says a Nielsen study

Arrival of big retailers has had an impact on small grocers, but neighbourhood stores are still growing their sales, although at a much lower rate than modern trade, according to data from market research firm The Nielsen Company. 

Since 2006, when most big retailers either entered the retail space or began expanding their network, sales in local kiranas have grown in the low single digits even less than the GDP growth rate, while modern trade has grown in strong double digits, though at a much lower base.
For instance, sales at modern stores grew 34% in 2006 and 29.3% in 2010. Traditional stores could increase sales only 1.5% in 2006, but improved the growth rate to 6.2% last year (see graph).
The data comes at a time the government finally moves closer to allowing multinational retailers such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour open shops in the country after several years of debates, protests and lobbying. Critics, including the Left and the BJP, say such a move will impact the livelihood of small shopkeepers and traders, but the thinking in government circles is that this will help check rising food prices by removing several layers of middlemen between farmers and consumers.
Organised retail accounts for less than 10% of India’s retail market estimated at close to $400 million. The Boston Consulting Group estimates the size of organised retail market at $28 billion and expects it to grow nine times to $260 billion in 10 years.
Nielsen says Indians have embraced modern retail.  “The Indian Shopper has discovered modern retail and is increasingly shopping there,” says Nielsen’s Executive Director for Retail and Shopper Practice Dipita Chakraborty. This trend is fueled by the growth in number of modern stores, she adds.
The study shows that the frequency of consumers going to large stores has increased. More than 37% consumers visited modern trade stores every month this year, up from 30% last year.
Reliance Retail President Bijou Kurien attributes this to more options that big retailers offer to consumers. “In momand-pop stores, customer has to be very specific with what they want, but they can get more options in a modern store, and that’s where we are gaining,” he says.
MOVING TOWARDS FDI
The Indian government has been advocating that FDI in retail could help small farmers and other producers as well as generate employment for some time now.
In fact, an inter-ministerial group set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to suggest ways to tackle high inflation has said that organised retail will reduce the margin between the price farmers get and what consumers pay by eliminating traders, and this will bring down prices. The group also tried to allay fears of small shopkeepers by suggesting creation of several zones and restricting the number of large-format retail stores in each zone.
Multinationals like Wal-Mart and Carrefour, which are lobbying for entry into the big and fast-growing Indian retail market, also say big investments in cold storages will cut wastage of fruits and vegetable in the country, estimated at . 130 crore every day, or about half the total production.
And big retailers say they are no threat to small grocers.  “Both the formats can co-exist. In fact, when modern trade help create new categories, the spillover effect is helping generate more demand in kirana stores as well,” says Damodar Mall, director, integrated food strategy, Future Group, the country’s largest retailer. “Once more wholesale or cash and carry stores are opened, smaller stores too will have more bargaining power and source products at lower costs,” added Mall.
However small shopkeepers are not convinced. And they are holding their ground, more or less.  “It’s true that our business is down compared to what we did few years ago. But we are also observing that few consumers are coming back to our stores for want of better credit facility or home delivery which large format stores can’t offer,” says Chandrakant Gala, secretary, Bombay Suburban Grain Dealers Association.
Meanwhile, big consumer product companies, including the country’s largest consumer products firm Hindustan Unilever that has relied on millions of small shops to build its empire, are now aggressively tapping modern stores.
Modern retail now accounts for 10% of Hindustan Unilever’s sales, up from 5% in 2005. “Last year, 85% of our business has grown share in modern trade. In modern trade we want to be significantly overweight,” the company’s executive director for sales & customer development Hemand Bakshi had told ET in April.
One reason for this is premium products are sold more in modern retail. And the Indian consumers’ love for premium products, which offer higher margins to manufacturers, is increasing along with their rising incomes, exposure and aspirations.

Twist in retail tale: Kiranas partner giants

MICROFINANCE PUSH

IT’S a nagging, almost decade-old doubt that has kept foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail at bay: will the entry of Big Retail hurt the six million kirana stores? As the nation grapples with the question, a series of interesting pilot projects are demonstrating how the giants and the dwarfs can co-exist, and even fuel each other’s growth, thanks to a little help from microfinance institutions (MFIs).

Biggies like Wal-Mart, Metro Cash & Carry and the Future Group have forged partnerships with microfinance and financial institutions to sell merchandise on credit to rural kiranas. The MFIs not only provide credit, but also double up as valuable intermediaries that collect orders from the kiranas, source the merchandise from big retailers and deliver it at the kirana’s doorstep. What’s more, the MFIs do not charge any interest on the credit extended to the kiranas. Instead, they receive a commission from the retailers, for whom this is a small price to pay in order to win new markets and grow faster.

While Metro has been running a pilot with SKS Microfinance in Hyderabad for a few months now, the Future Group has just inked a similar deal with SKS. Bharti Wal-Mart, an equal joint venture, has a partnership with Kotak Mahindra Bank for cards that offer ready credit to the kiranas. RPG-controlled Spencer’s Retail too is keen to explore such opportunities.
If these experiments click, it could enable large retailers to pry open vast rural markets, help kiranas become more efficient in their sourcing, give consumers the benefit of lower prices, and build a thriving retail ecosystem where the lambs can indeed sleep with the lions.

It might also soften the resistance to FDI in retail. If kiranas are empowered to source more effectively, they may be able to co-exist meaningfully with organised retail if and when FDI is opened up. Though foreign retailers are allowed to set up cash-and-carry formats, FDI is not allowed in supermarkets, etc.

“This will open up a completely new rural distribution model and help us in understanding rural consumers,” says Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani. “This is probably the first time the Indian retail sector is targeting the rural market in such a big and strategic way.”

Future Group has started to sell staples, dry groceries and FMCG products through SKS’s network to some kiranas in the North, including a few in the National Capital Region. It also plans to supply its bouquet of private label products through this network. ‘Partnership a win-win one’
IT’S a win-win partnership as we can use our sourcing strength and SKS’s huge network of kirana clients to supply products to them at competitive rates. Eventually, we can include other products as well,” says Biyani.

SKS provides interest-free working capital loan to its kirana clients. The kiranas use this to purchase their inventory from Metro and Future Group at wholesale prices. The loan amounts range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000. SKS, in return, receives a fixed commission from Metro and Future Group for the total purchases a kirana makes.

“Kiranas access superior quality products at very reasonable prices, delivered right at their store, thereby increasing their productivity,” says SKS Microfinance COO MR Rao. SKS has 2.72 lakh kirana store owners as its customers (4% of its total of 68 lakh members). Industry estimates suggest that only 35% of the 6 million-odd kiranas in India are properly serviced by consumer goods companies and distributors. The remaining 65% is serviced by a multi-layered distribution network that is often inefficient, but still adds a substantial amount to the product cost.

German wholesaler Metro Cash and Carry India plans to scale up its Hyderabad pilot nationally soon. The company is also helping rural kiranas with tips on effective use of working capital and strategies to serve their catchments better. “We could have launched this as part of our CSR programme, but we chose to make it a part of our core business plan as the potential is huge,” says Metro Cash & Carry India director (customer management) Ajay Sheodaan.

Kotak Mahindra and Bharti Wal-Mart have rolled out a “business card” which offers credit to kiranas starting from Rs 8,000. The credit is free of interest for 14 days after the purchase and an interest rate of 1.5% per month is charged after that. Kiranas are now making transactions ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh on this card.

Kotak Mahindra Bank executive VP and head (credit cards) Subrat Pani says the customer acceptance for this lowticket working capital funding is growing on a daily basis. “We have around 700 members from Amritsar and Chandigarh. Within six to seven months, we have been able to drive almost 9-10% of the total sales at Bharti Wal-Mart. This could potentially go up to 12% in the next three months,” he says.

Enthused by these initiatives, RPG Group vice-chairman Sanjiv Goenka says Spencer’s Retail will also study such possibilities. “Any new model which expands penetration is good for the industry,” he says.

However, Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan responds cautiously. “The real potential for modern retail lies in the top 100 cities. Some companies may be experimenting on newer models, but we need to see how much business it can generate,” he says.

Big bazaars score over kiranas

EARLYthis year, when escalating prices were crunching household budgets, modern retailers were more responsive in cutting or holding prices of day-to-day products than traditional retailers, thanks to their ability to check operational costs bargain hard with suppliers and launch private labels.

According to a study by The Nielsen Company, modern retail dropped prices by more, or increased them by less, for more product categories than traditional retailers, or kiranas, between the last quarter of 2009 (Oct-Dec) and the first quarter of 2010 (Jan-Mar).

“The power of modern retail lies in the scale and efficiencies which we have built over the years,” says Kishore Biyani, CEO of Future Group that operates retail formats such as Food Bazaar, Big Bazaar, Pantaloon and KB’s Fairprice stores.

The Nielsen Shop Census study compared prices of 47 commonly used items including toothpastes, washing powder and confectionery. Modern retail dropped prices by more, or increased them by less, than traditional retailers for 29 product categories while traditional retailers did better in 18 categories.

It collected data from 16,000 stores (11,000 urban and 5,000 rural, in both modern and traditional retail) in 462 towns and 1,427 villages.

During this period, the rate of inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price index, was hovering around 10% and food inflation was more than 12%.
In the past two years, modern retail has been able to significantly cut operational costs related to real estate rentals, energy costs and increase persquare-feet productivity of employees leading to savings in people costs.
They also launched private labels to get a better grip on selling prices and profit margins, and some savings were passed onto customers.

Higher collaboration with small and medium suppliers as well as distributors of large FMCG companies helped them cut costs in transportation and logistics.

Efficiencies of scale helps one source the goods closer to the manufacturer says Mr Biyani. In 2009, Big Bazaar sourced 26,000 tonnes of rice, 4 crore pieces of clothing, 20 lakh suitcases, 36 lakh mixer-grinders, 45,000 manufactured beds, 20 lakh bedsheets and 19,000 LCD TVs. Each of these figures will be higher by a minimum of 30% for the year 2010, he says. “Such large sourcing allows us to get better prices directly from manufacturers and producers.”

Big Bazaar is the largest player in the segment contributing over 33% of modern retail sales. Other top retail formats competing with traditional kirana for essential purchases include Reliance Retail, Aditya Birla Retail’s More and Spencer’s Retail.

Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retail Association of India, says strong sourcing power helps modern formats offer better prices. “They have done away with the extra level of intermediaries,” he says.

Meanwhile, grocers too are working on protecting their turf by leveraging on their strengths such as customer relationships, home delivery, credit facilities and expanding their product portfolio.

Top FMCG companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Procter & Gamble Marico and Godrej have begun adopting kiranas, teaching them category management and effective merchandising to counter big retailers and their private labels.

Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM), the biggest national-level association of mom-and-pop stores, has formed city-centric associations that negotiate directly with manufacturers such as Unilever and P&G and do away with any middlemen.

This helped kiranas offer 5-20% discounts on MRP of branded products like detergents, shampoos soaps, oil and atta.

“When prices rose due to inflation some kirana stores offered customers the option of paying in instalments apart from extending them credit for a month,” says Vijay Prakash Jain, secretary general of BUVM that comprises 17,000 state and district-level associations across 27 states.

Interestingly, kiranas managed the prices of items such as detergent bars toilet soaps, shampoo, packaged tea and iodised salt better than modern retail, according to the Nielsen study.

Currently, traditional retail, both grocers & chemists, constitute over 95% of total sales in the country.

Modern trade at just 3-5% of the total national industry sales, had grown aggressively at over 35-40% contributing to over 15-25% sales for most consumer goods companies last year.

Retailers Work under one roof by sharing space.

Now Rival Retailers Work under one roof

SHARING SPACE TO EXPAND SPECIALTY CHAINS

THEY are fierce rivals in the marketplace, but big retailers such as Future Group, Reliance Retail, RPG Retail and Aditya Birla Retail now tap each other’s synergies to expand their specialty chains.

So, walk into a ‘Central’ mall of Kishore Biyani’s Future Group and you may well see Reliance TimeOut, the gift-music-book format of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail. Reliance’s optical chain Vision Express shares some premises of Birla group’s ‘More’ hypermarkets, while RPG Retail has rolled out 20 Music World stores inside Future Group’s Big Bazaar outlets.
“Retailers have now realised that they alone cannot manage all categories on their own, how much hard they may try,” says Arvind Singhal, chairman of retail consultancy Technopak Advisors.
Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani says it’s a win-win model for both retailers and customers. “The retailers can exploit each other’s synergies in non-competing categories, which ultimately helps the customer get a wider choice from the same store,” he says. “We are open to locate our specialty stores in other’s premises, if such opportunities come up.”
There has been a flurry of deals and expansions in the $20-billion organized retail sector over the last five years since companies such as Reliance, Aditya Birla and Bharti entered the turf and started floating specialty chains on their own or in tieup with foreign players.
“There are obvious opportunities to associate with each other, provided the brand positioning of the stores match,” says Bijou Kurien, president and chief executive
(lifestyle) of Reliance Retail.
He says that this model of co-locating stores could emerge as a way to expand. “We understand each other’s issues like constraints in standalone expansion and profitability.”
The concept of shop-in-shop within largeformat stores such as hypermarkets is selling like hot cakes among garment and other single/limited product retailers because it saves them the cost of operating standalone stores and gives access to a captive consumer base of the large format.
Also, specialty shop-in-shop owners need not worry about associated costs like security, civil engineering and air-conditioning, says Mr Singhal of Technopak.
Retailers say running a shop-in-shop costs at least 25% less than a standalone shop of the same size.
These deals mostly follow a revenue-sharing model, but retailers say there is no standard formula on the percentage of revenue shared. It depends on the customer traffic the large store is able to drawn.
In some cases, there could be sharing of shop-floor employees, sharing of loyalty schemes and payment counters.
“The model of collaborative expansion will drive efficiencies,” says K Dasaratharaman, president (speciality retail) of RPG Retail, which plans to more than double the number of its music-and-movie chain Music World outlets inside Big Bazaar. “We are talking to few others like Aditya Birla Group to expand on this model,” he says.
Shoppers Stop vice-chairman B S Nagesh says the chain will explore this model to expand its book retail chain Crossword. “Distribution has emerged as the key point in the country,” he says.
Reliance Retail
Reliance DIGITAL — Consumer durable & information technology
Reliance TRENDS — Apparel & accessories
Reliance WELLNESS — Health, wellness & beauty
Reliance FOOTPRINT — Footwear
Reliance JEWELS — Jewellery
Reliance TIMEOUT — Books, music & entertainment
Reliance AUTOZONE — Automotive products & services
Reliance LIVING — Homeware, furniture, modular kitchens, furnishings SPECIALTY CHAINS OF BIG RETAILERS
Future Group
PLANET SPORTS — Sports lifestyle NAVARAS — Jewellery aLL — Fashion for plus-sized people DEPOT — Books
RPG Retail
MUSIC WORLD BOOKS & BEYOND
Tata Group
LANDMARK — Books, music, gifts, movie

Future Group Deploys Next-Generation Database for Enterprise Data Analysis

Future Group, India’s largest retailer, with banners that span the retail market, has deployed a new database for its Enterprise Data Cloud in support of large-scale data analytics for its multi-format nationwide chain of retail stores.

The retailer is working with San Mateo, Calif.-based Greenplum on the project. “Flexibility and agility are core requirements in our IT infrastructure,” said Ushir Bhatt, CEO of Future Knowledge Services within Mumbai-based Future Group. “Greenplum Database is a centerpiece of our strategy to use a cloud-like approach to our data warehouse. Greenplum’s leadership in bringing forth Enterprise Data Cloud is another example of how they are leap-frogging their competition in the data warehousing market and adapting to the business needs of retailers.”

The Greenplum Database stores and analyzes terabytes to petabytes of data using clusters of commodity servers, moving processing power as close as possible to the data, so processing always occurs in parallel for better query and load performance, according to the company.

“Greenplum brings Future Group the speed and scalability of a massively parallel data warehouse but does so in a very cost-effective manner,” said Parakh Dave, head of technology services, Future Knowledge Services. “As we increase the amount of data under management, we will be able to make smarter decisions about customers, products, pricing and promotions across all of our retail outlets. We are setting a new standard for retail analytics by enabling our decision-makers to run Future Group as a data-driven enterprise.”

Retail majors in rightsizing mode

IN A bid to maximise sales per square feet, Indias frontline retailers are increasingly looking at ways to restructure their stores. Leading players like Future Group, Spencers Retail, Shoppers Stop and Vishal Retail plan to rightsize their stores and replace slow-moving categories with speciality formats under the shop-in-shop model.

Retailers feel such an approach will also help them improve gross margin returns per sq ft in the present environment when same store sales growth is quite weak. A shop-inshop approach helps increase revenue per sq ft. It enables best utilisation of space and is a good way to do away with excess space and reduce space for categories which are not doing well, Future Group CEORetail Rakesh Biyani told ET.

Future Group plans to offer a wider choice in large-format stores like Big Bazaar by setting up speciality zones under the shop-in-shop model. This approach provides consumers with a wider choice. We have a similar model for the Pantaloons outlets in the East and may replicate it elsewhere, Mr Biyani said. Shoppers Stop recently tied up with Cafe Coffee Day to manage cafes within its stores. It is an ongoing process to maximise returns, said managing director BS Nagesh. The most common categories where retailers are looking for shop-inshop outlets include food and beverage, saris and areas which have more customerconnect requirement like cosmetics, personal care products, fine jewellery and salons, says Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan.

Spencers Retail, which is presently rightsizing by cutting down on 20% of its retail space, also plans to focus on shopinshops. In a slowdown, shop-in-shops are the best way to leverage domain knowledge of speciality players and maximise returns. Such outlets will be set up through our groups speciality formats like Books & Beyond, Mera World, Music World as well as in collaboration with other players, Spencers Retail marketing head Samar S Sheikhawat.

Vishal Retail group president Ambeek Khemka said the retailer too is restructuring its 171 stores nationally. We have already completed the exercise for 35-odd stores and the results are encouraging. In fact, small and regional brands are lapping up the opportunity to follow the shop-in-shops model, he said.

Economic Times: Writankar Mukherjee & Sreeradha D Basu, KOLKATA

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