Madan Mohapatra
Guest Article

Har store kuch kehta hai!

Our guest author asserts that success in retail lies not in boardrooms but in decoding the unique narratives of a store and its community.

A store is the epicentre of all the action, reaction, interaction, and interpretation for any retailer. If the customer is the God then the store is the temple for any retailer. 

Each store has its unique nuance based on the communities it caters to. The art and science of listening to the store forms the key pivot for business growth. Success is determined by the way a retailer draws insight and converts those into action for sustainable growth. 

I was fortunate to witness the modern retail revolution in India during my 13-year tenure with Big Bazaar, the flagship hypermarket of Future Group.

During this period, the modern retail landscape transformed from single-digit penetration to double digits, expanding from the bustling metro markets to the tier one, two, and three towns, becoming an integral part of everyday life for people across the socio-economic spectrum.

Big Bazaar, being the largest player in the market at that time, was not just a store; it was a microcosm of life, buzzing with events and activities on a weekly basis. 

There is a saying “Retail is in detail” and, another, “The answer to most of the problems lies in the store” and I experienced this during those 13 years. Thanks to my self-obsession with the stores and store staff to understand the business from the ground, I travelled to most of the Big Bazaar cities and visited more than 200 stores to understand the contrasts and similarities between the customers of Bharat and India. 

The essence of each store is unique and demands attention tailored to its individuality. Whether it's the store layout, assortment planning, supply chain management, community engagement, or marketing promotions, each store possesses its own identity.

The customer, community, culture, rituals, and occupations in the store's catchment area create a distinct consumption mix for each store. Understanding this mix is paramount because diversity exists even at the catchment level. Without comprehending the community dynamics, the store's sustainability will always be in question. 

The essence of retail success lies not in boardrooms or data sheets but in the heartbeat of the store, echoing the sentiments of its unique customers and community. The consumer data and research may make one knowledgeable about a state or city, it is the store staff, the local storytellers, who hold the keys to unlocking deeper insights and the ability to explain the reasons behind the data.

While they may not always articulate insights with eloquence, it is our responsibility to connect the dots and build meaningful insights from their experiences. 

Though the overall strategy might be uniform for a pan-India retailer, the tactics for execution and success are deeply rooted in the local nuances discerned through the store. It's about listening to the stories embedded in the walls, shelves, and interactions within and outside the store.

Every store, if you lend an ear, reveals a unique narrative, a tale of its customers, their habits, rituals, and occupations. Success for a store hinges on how closely one listens to and interprets this story.

Spending time in the store, engaging with frontline staff, and immersing oneself in the local context enriches the retailer with insights that go beyond the spreadsheet. It's not just about occasional visits; it's about spending time in the store, engaging with frontline staff, and deciphering the unspoken language of retail. 

In the dynamic world of retail, every store is a repository of untold stories, insights, and lessons waiting to be heard. "Har store kuch kehta hai, bas sunna zaroori hai" – Every store has a story; you just need to listen. It is in this careful listening that retailers find the symphony of success, crafting sustainable and profitable stories that resonate with the diverse tapestry of their consumers and communities.

This adage encapsulates the essence of retail success – the ability to listen, adapt, and craft a narrative that resonates with the unique pulse of each store and its community. 

(Our guest author is Madan Mohapatra, an independent marketing consultant)

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