Starstruck: Mall Owners Relocate others for Starbucks

Brands that are being shunted to less attractive locations to accommodate the coffee chain are not amused

A joke doing the rounds on Twitter these days is that the wait outside Mumbai’s first Starbucks coffee outlet at Horniman Circle is so long that a smart alec has started selling tea to those standing in the queue.

Starbucks Coffee Logo

Starbucks Coffee Logo

This kind of consumer frenzy is music to the ear of mall owners in India’s big cities. Sensing a huge opportunity, many of them are offering the American coffee chain preferred locations within their malls, sometimes even at the cost of relocating a brand that is already present at the location.

It’s not as if the mall owners are expecting premium charges. They just want Starbucks as an anchor tenant as such iconic brands can bring home the much desired footfalls; and also inspire other quality labels to set up shop in their malls.

Starbucks had said that it plans to open 50 stores by the end of the year in Delhi and Mumbai. That plan may or may not materialise, but the coffee retailer surely is on the fast track to sign up new spaces. “For some international iconic brands, mall developers will be willing to bend backwards as they can improve the tenant mix,” says Jaideep Wahi, director, retail agency at Cushman & Wakefield India, a property advisory firm that helps companies such as Starbucks find store space.

The Ambience group has signed up Starbucks for two of its malls in Gurgaon and Vasant Kunj in the capital. At the Gurgaon mall, a brand that was on the ground floor is being relocated to another part of the mall to accommodate the coffee house.

“I am relocating a brand for Starbucks as we wanted to give them an indoor-outdoor combination,” says Deepti Goel, head of leasing at Ambience. Starbucks is negotiating for space at another mall in south Delhi. Arjun Sharma, the director of Select Citywalk mall in Saket says he would love to move brands around for the iconic brand. “It’s a relevant brand. It’s a great brand. We always seek marquee brands to improve our tenant mix,” he said.

Another developer in Mumbai, requesting anonymity, said he was even willing to compensate an existing store operator if he vacates his current location.
A Tata Starbucks spokesperson declined to comment on queries sent by ET.

The enthusiasm to put up Starbucks has caused heartburn among a few brands that have been asked to relocate. “We were asked to move to a less-attractive location within the mall, even though the mall owner agreed to give us favourable terms. But it still can’t make up for losing a premium location,” says a manager with an apparel brand, who did not wish to be identified for risk of antagonising the mall owner.

PVR to add 50 screens in 2009-10.

Multiplex chain operator PVR plans to spend Rs 100 crore in the fiscal 2009-10 for building 50 screens and two bowling alleys.The company on Tuesday launched its first bowling entertainment centre in collaboration with Thai company Major Cineplex under the brand Blu O at Gurgaon. PVR Blue O, a 51:49 joint venture between PVR and Major Cineplex, plans to open 400-500 bowling lanes across metro cities in the next five years. PVR ‘s managing director Ajay Bijli said the company will expand bowling alleys to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune in the first stage. “We will open over 20 bowling alleys per location and we have kept our cover charges on par with a movie ticket,” he added. Talking about the film production and distribution business, Mr Bijli said that the company is evaluating scripts and will look at making 4-6 movies in the next 2 years.

FALLING rentals help retailers expand

FALLING rentals are proving to be a boon for a cross-section of businesses which, for a while, had to defer their expansion plans in various cities on acount of high rentals.

Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), ethnic apparel wear Biba and Samsonite, are some of the players looking to expand in Tier-I cities. High rentals were a stumbling block in most locations. That has changed now. “On an average, we have managed to bring down rents by about 15-20%. There have been instances where the reduction has been as much as 50%,” says Samsonite director (global) Ramesh Tainwala.

The correction in some locations in Delhi has been as much as 80%. Though, Samsonite opened only three new stores in 2008, it plans to add 35 stores by 2009 end. Biba is also using the slowdown as an opportunity to expand. “We have renegotiated our rentals for 10 properties in the last one week alone,” says Biba Apparel director Sanjay Bindra.

In one of the existing stores in Navi Mumbai, it managed to negotiate its rental and brought it down by 50%. Lower rentals are now helping it expand to prime areas in New Delhi, where it has just one store. Today, Biba has 64-standalone stores across the country and plans are on to add 30 more over the next year. A property broker, on the condition of anonymity, cites the case of a Hyderabad mall where the rent was at Rs 300 per square foot, a year ago. That is now down to just over Rs 100 per square foot. Likewise, rates in a prominent mall in south Mumbai have reduced from Rs 600 per square foot to a third at Rs 200 per square foot. Like a host of other players, CCD, too, plans to use the fall in rentals to expand in Tier-I locations.

“Rentals in malls would have fallen by 20-30%, while on high streets it would have fallen by 15-30%. Falling rentals are definitely helping our expansion plans and helping us enter locations where we were not present earlier,” says CCD director Alok Gupta. He adds that it takes less time to negotiate with developers. The plan is to establish a stronger presence in south Mumbai and Delhi where developers were unwilling to negotiate on rents. CCD, which currently has 800 outlets, plans to ramp it up to 1,000 in the next financial year. A large part of it is scheduled to come up in the 115 cities where it already has a presence.

BUILDING BLOCKS

Correction in some locations in Delhi has been as much as 80% Samsonite plans to add 35 stores by 2009 end Biba, too, plans to add 30 stores over the next year Biba has managed to negotiate its rentals and bring it down by 50% CCD, which currently has 800 outlets, plans to ramp it up to 1,000 in the next fiscal.

Australian food, beverages to hit Indian supermarkets

SYDNEY: From Australia’s iconic vegemite to virgin olive oils, snack foods to gourmet sauces, and wines to fresh juices, quality Australian food and beverages are coming to Indian supermarkets this festive season.

Three Indian supermarket chains, SPAR, Hypercity and Nature’s Basket, and Indian import and distribution company Epicure Foods, have spent 10 days in Melbourne, Tasmania and Sydney to source quality Australian products for their fast-growing stores.

Cookies, confectionery, cereals, canned vegetables, juices and other products from 22 Australian companies are already on SPAR’s shelves in Bangalore.

“Many Indians are travelling the world and looking for international brands back home. About 35 to 40 percent of snack foods are imported,” SPAR Max Hypermarket India’s business manager Satish S V told media.

SPAR expects to import up to A$1 million (US$ 863,000 or Rs 37 million) worth of Australian products over the next year.

“Each of SPAR’s new stores will have two permanent gondola ends continually selling Australian products,” New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Primary Industries, Energy and Mineral Resources Ian McDonald said.

The supermarket officials have met over 45 Australian companies and experienced first hand what Australia has to offer.

“There is a general understanding in India that Australian food is clean, green and healthy,” Australian food consolidator Bemco Australia managing director Helen Pilakis told IANS.

The visit, organised by Bemco with support from the NSW Department of State and Regional Development (DSRD), follows a successful “Taste Australia” promotion held in Bangalore last November that introduced Indian consumers to more than 120 new food and beverage products from 22 Australian companies.

Most Australian products are targeted at India’s growing middle class, with huge disposable incomes, looking for ready and convenience driven products.

“Revolutionised retail with more shelf space is opening a new market where Indian customers are constantly looking for something new,” says SPAR’s senior category manager Nanda Kishore.

“At the moment, Australian dairy products can’t be imported into India, but buyers are hoping things will change by the year-end. We are looking at options for importing dairy products,” Kishore added.

Many Australian companies are producing food targeted at people with special dietary needs. Real Foods feels there is a market in India for its gluten-free rice cakes.

“Indians today are looking for gluten-free products and have a much broader flavour palate. Our expertise is in making six varieties of corn thins, thinner than normal rice cakes, which can be eaten as a snack, replacing a sandwich, or as a meal,” the company’s market coordinator, Charlotte Marbus, told media.

Another Australian company, Sweet William’s (William’s) makes vegan, gluten and nut-free, halal, kosher and sugar free chocolates.

“With high incidence of diabetes in India, people are looking for sugar-free chocolate bars. However, the prohibitive aspect of our product is the 60 percent customs duty on chocolates,” the company’s marketing and sales manager, Carol O’Halloran, told media.

Godrej-owned Nature’s Basket has already placed an order for salad dressings and sauces, cereals, honey, olive oils, biscuits and crackers.

“The products should be on our shelves by Diwali. Many of these products would be ideal for gift hampers over the festive season”, the company’s operations manager Sudhir Kadav told media.

“There is a wide range of cuisine available in Australia and we have noticed that retailers can ask manufacturers for specific products tailored to their specific markets”, Kadav added.

Supermarkets are looking at products that cater largely to the much travelled Indian clientele, non-resident Indians and the large number of expatriate Indians.

Mumbai-based HyperCity’s category managers for ready, gourmet and instant foods, Shweta Mohile and Y V Rao, said their company was looking at unique products, Australian Leatherwood honey, Macademia nuts, shortbreads, which can capture a niche market.

As Australia becomes more aggressive in its exports to India and the Indian retail market grows, Epicure Frozen Foods and Beverages managing director Sanjay Tandon and CEO (Operations) Murali Shankar said in the coming years, Australian products would be represented far more in their product range.

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