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.
Filed under: Convenience Store, Grocery Stores, Mini Markets, Retail Formats, Retail Verticals, Smaller Format Superstores | Tagged: Aditya Birla, Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, Big Bazaar, BUVM, chemists, FMCG, Future Group, Godrej, grocers, Hindustan Unilever, Kirana, Marico, Modern Retailing, mom-and-pop-stores, P&G, Reilance Retail, Retail Association of India, retailers | 1 Comment »