India Retail Forum: The changing dynamics of retail

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | September 07, 2007
Rex Mehta of Dollarstore Corporation, Andrew Levermore of HyperCITY Retail and Samir Modi of Twenty Four Seven Retail, shared their unique experiences in the retail space

Large & #BANNER1 & # retailers didn't become rich overnight; it has taken several years of bumpy rides for a few players to lodge themselves in the minds of consumers. At the India Retail Forum held in Mumbai, Rex Mehta, CEO and founder, Dollarstore Corporation, USA, spoke of the 'TCE formula' that seems to have worked wonders for his company.

TCE stands for Total Customer Experience - a term many use, but few put into practice. "I started Dollarstore in 1996 with the single price retailing strategy. This eliminates guesswork for consumers," said Mehta. As is known, every item in a Dollarstore outlet costs the same. Apart from single-price retailing, Dollarstore has relied heavily on two factors: a value for money positioning, and a mixed variety platform (finding different products under the same roof). This, coupled with exceptional customer service and an emotional touch, has led to loyalty and familiarity amongst Dollarstore frequenters, and today, this retail chain has 500 stores in 25 countries.

Andrew Levermore
While Mehta swore by the TCE mantra, Andrew Levermore, CEO, HyperCITY Retail, spoke of the urgent need of replacing one-to-many retailing with personalised retailing. "Retail outlets today are very product centric, we need to be customer centric instead," he said. He then highlighted the difference between the classes and the masses, stating that the latter expect consumption based experiences and have more time on hand, while the former is cash rich and time starved. The classes in India typically comprise people who expect to be taken care of, and visually stunning merchandise with a dash of emotional connect is what has them glued to the retail chain.

However, Levermore stressed that even as urban India races ahead, the rising middle class cannot be ignored anymore.

Stepping away from the classes/masses issue, Samir Modi, president, Twenty Four Seven Retail, felt that consumers come in different shapes and sizes, particularly in a 24-hour convenience store format. "Convenience stores are the only places where one finds drunkards, starving men, old people and kids alike, all looking for a quick buy," he said. A convenience store is where, according to him, one gets to witness true consumer behaviour. Instances of theft and kleptomania are perhaps at their peak here.

Modi narrated the incident of an old man looking for a cake for his grandson at 2 am. As Twenty Four Seven Retail (in Delhi) could offer only pastries at that hour, the customer decided to wait until 4 am, by when the store was able to bake a cake for him. "The consumer is changing, his shopping pattern and timings are changing, and it's time we kept up," he added.

On the problems facing the convenience retail format today, Modi was astute. "My biggest trouble is not the supply chain or the consumer; it's cops!" he said. "Some cops come in expecting a free coffee, and when we ask them to pay, they come back with armed men, forcing us to shut down in the wee hours, citing some law or the other," he explained.

Modi was also of the opinion that 'modern retail' is just a fancy term. "I'm all for the mom-and-pop stores, provided they keep up with the times," he concluded.