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Retailers converge at The Shop in Delhi — to assess impact of organised retail

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The 4th edition of ‘The Shop’ gets off to a promising start in New Delhi, at Pragati Maidan. Hosted by India Retail Forum (IRF), the event is scheduled for June 29 to July 1.

“It is important to share retail experiences in similar markets like India, with the millions of neighbourhood stores, vegetable and grocery vendors, and it is in this context that India Retail Forum has called for this national convention before hosting its global convention in September,” says Amitabh Taneja, chief convenor, IRF.

The big question, according to Rajeev Karwal, chairman of ‘The Shop’, is: “Why fear organised retail?” “The evolution will help all,” he says. Retail is entrepreneur-driven business and entrepreneurs are always driven by challenge. Many small retailers were pushed to think ‘out of the box’ as their survival seemed difficult with large players coming in to play in their arena. Karwal also elaborated on the role of salespersons and the various attributes required to strengthen relationship with customers. This is especially pertinent because the modern customer is more empowered than ever, is one who is individualistic and seeks an “experience”. Retail is evolving into a social hub, so a retailer must make it contextual to his strategy for growth.

Vipul Sabharwal of Nokia shared research insights the company has had into consumer behaviour. Up to 70 per cent of customers make final buying decisions inside the shop. Significantly, it is the salespersons who play an important role by guiding the customers on “how to spend their money”.

Vikram Bakshi of McDonald’s was critical about retailers opting for unplanned expansion, without first getting the back-end and the retail format in place. He mentioned that 99 per cent of Indian retailers are in business just to earn money, with no understanding of the basic tenets of retailing. Bakshi also emphasised that notwithstanding the influx of big retail players, the small retailers will survive because of the personal touch they have maintained in their retailing culture. In fact, the market will evolve into a healthy mix of the big and the small; this will help the market to expand to the benefit of all.

Hemant Kalbag of AT Kearney shared findings of Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) 2007. In the list of top 30 emerging markets globally, India has been at the top for three years consecutively. According to research, the tier II and III cities and towns are the next retail destinations.

Amar Agarwal of Spa India delivered an animated talk on empowering the front-end staff – and reversing the retail management pyramid so the people on the sales floor are enabled to take decisions at the relevant time. As he said, “Size does not matter; quality does.”

With large participation of retailers and the entire retail support organisations, The Nokia Images Retail CEO meet at ‘The Shop’ will address the issues concerning millions of small retailers, middlemen and vendors that fear losing of their businesses in the wake of evolution of organised retail. The congregation will assess the implication of large-scale expansion of organised retailing in India. “How the existing retail and distributional channels can be energised,” will be the core focus of the CEO discussion.

The Shop will enlist representation from all kinds of retailers: the successfully established ones like the Future Group (Pantaloon Retail), Shoppers’ Stop, Spencer’s, Lifestyle, Trent, Globus and Piramyd; the recent debutants like Reliance and Aditya Birla Retail; the ones at take-off stage like Bharti Retail and Dabur. Among the regional retailers that now plan national expansion are Big Apple, Spinach, Sabka Bazaar, Influx, Heritage Retail, Ebony, and Twenty Four Seven.

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