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.

Rural India Laps up Diapers, Colognes, Sanitary napkins.

Rural consumers are buying diapers, salty snacks, colognes and even contraceptives other than condoms like never before, despite signs of falling demand for traditional FMCG categories such as shampoos and soaps in hinterlands due to unabated inflation. Data from Nielsen, a global provider of insights and analytics, shows that tens of contemporary and indulgent product categories including sanitary napkins and chocolates are growing at high double-digit rates in Indian villages (see graphic).

“The rural mindset is open to consumption of newer, more contemporary categories, as a result driving consistent growth,” says Nielsen India VP Prashant Singh.
Nielsen categorises rural markets as those with population of less than 5,000, but there could be some exceptions. It estimates that the country’s rural FMCG market will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $12 billion in 2011.
For MNCs like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, it’s an achievement of sorts to have broken ground in rural markets, by initiating consumers into newer categories such as diapers and salty snacks and upgrading them from unbranded or regional products to branded ones like in the case of cooking oils.
So, how did they achieve this?
P&G adopted the classic and tested strategy of betting on low-volume, lowpriced packages — sachets in the case of detergents and shampoo, and, for diapers, a pack of two at Rs. 15.  The move has paid off.
“We have seen a near doubling of the diaper category in rural India over the last two years,” says P&G Brand Manager (Pampers) Girish Kalyanaraman.
P&G launched the country’s first lowpriced trial pack of two Pamper diapers two years ago, educated people in rural areas about the benefits of uninterrupted overnight sleep for babies; and ran an awareness campaign on Doordarshan and satellite channels. Result: Demand for diapers has grown 90% a year in the last couple of years.
American snacks and beverages maker PepsiCo is another company that achieved tremendous growth in rural areas. Besides using fixed low price points such as Rs. 2, 3 and 5, PepsiCo has been using innovation, backward linkages for procurement and expanded distribution to drive growth in the hinterlands, a PepsiCo spokesman said.
“There’s a massive under-served demand for hygienic packaged snacks; we are expanding our manufacturing footprint and investing heavily in expanding distribution,” he said.
The company has moved away from centralised manufacturing and, instead, partners with local entrepreneurs across the country to cater to regional preferences and tastes, using locally grown ingredients. Examples for this include the extension of Kurkure brand to three local variants — Mumbai Usal, Bengali Jhaal and South India Spice—and testing of Lehar Iron Chusti puffs and biscuits at Rs. 2 in Andhra Pradesh. Kolkata-based Emami—maker of Boroplus anti-septic cream and Zandu Balm pain reliever—broke into the rural cooking oil market with a Rs. 5 pack of its edible oil Healthy & Tasty. “Rural consumers are used to buying unbranded or loose oil from local kirana shops for Rs. 5 or 10,” says Emami Group of Companies Director Aditya Agarwal, explaining the idea behind the low-cost edible oil packet.

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.

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