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There is little doubt that the shopping cart is one of the most enduring symbols of modern food retail. It is, after all, this tool that greatly enables self service, a necessary feature of the modern supermarket experience, while facilitating volume purchases. 

Essentially, a handcart that holds groceries/purchases while shopping this retail invention has completely changed the shopping experience of customers. Shopping carts are known by diverse names across different parts of the world – as shopping trolley, shopping carriage, buggy and basket..  
 
Supplied by the supermarkets and big boss retailers for the convenience of shoppers, the shape, design and popularity of this retail too has seen an upward curve since it was first invented and introduced for aem-weary shoppers way back in 1937 by Sylvan N.Goldman.
 
Recent studies have also reiterated the importance of shopping carts- cart-less retailers (Sears and J.C. Penney) have suffered slow sales compared to those that do use shopping carts ().  
 
Various shapes and Styles
 
Mostly made of metal or plastic, these shopping trolleys come in a wide variety of types, shapes and sizes. In order to make shopping simpler for customers with young children, some trolleys are large enough to carry one or two children too. Sharing information about some of the various types of trolleys supplied by the company, Bhushan Deshpande, business development and administration manager of Wanzl India Pvt Ltd, which is a supplier to retailers like , , Limited, Bharti- Walmart etc, says that some of the different types include the standard steel trolleys (with base tray to carry large packets, and without base tray to avoid theft from stores), plastic basket trolleys (an advance trolley with a complete plastic basket – RFID compatible – in different colour combinations and steel chassis), convenience shopping trolleys (steel wire frame for carrying two to three plastic baskets particularly favoured by convenience shoppers, and steel tube frame for carrying baskets for pick-up shoppers), transportation trolleys (heavy duty trolleys for transport purposes or formats such as Metro).
 
“Apart from different types and shapes, capacities of these shopping trolleys vary from 60 litre volume to 240 litre volume,” he says.
 
Some Indian players
 
Even though a very large percentage of the domestic demand of shopping trolleys is met by imports from various countries, there are a few Indian companies such as Retail Detailz India Pvt.Ltd., Wanzl India Pvt Ltd and Shop-Ease Enterprises, who partly meet the local demand.
 
Wanzl India
 
One of the largest manufacturers of shopping trolleys, transport trolleys and display & sales equipment in the world, and a preferred supplier to retail greats such as Wal-Mart, Tesco, Metro and Ahold among others, Wanzl today manufactures approximately 1.8 million units of shopping trolleys each year in a wide range of models and styles. The company, whose 2008 group turnover touched Euro 4,000 million, offers its services to other industries as well (the company is operates in the field of airport services; it is among the leading companies for passenger handling services). With over 3,300 employees in seven production facilities – in Germany, France, the , and China – the company has seen remarkable growth from the time it began as a metal goods factory.
 
Under Shopping Trolleys, Wanzl manufactures the BT range, which is especially made in Wanzl China for Asian customers. This trolley design features a combination of tube frame and wire basket. Eleven basket sizes available are available from 75 – 212 litres’ capacity. The most comprehensive series in the Wanzl range is the DR series. These trolleys are top-class in smooth running, performance and safety. The range offers eleven basket sizes from 60 -212 Litres.
 
Shopease Enterprises
 
Incepted in 2001, Shopease Enterprises’ activities range from manufacturing, exporting and importing of a wide assortment of material handling products including trolleys, baskets, display shelves, cash table and storage shelves. With a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, the company not only caters to the needs of the retail industry but also the corporate and educational sectors. 
 
Under Asian Style Trolleys, the company offers trolleys fitted with smooth castor wheels and available in customised sizes. It also offers the Asian Style Utility Troll for retailers, which are made from quality proven raw material and can be customised as per a client’s specific requirements. The Asian style utility trolleys are known for their prolonged performance and are highly demanded across the global market, according to the company.
 
In addition to these, Shopease also manufactures European Style Trolleys, which are reliable and apt for carrying heavy goods. Being spacious, it provides a huge loading capacity, while also being light in weight and hence easy to handle. Shopease can provide customised sizes as well as the number of layersto meet the specific requirement of clients. The company also makes Metal Utility Trolleys, which are differentiated by their rugged construction and shiny finish. These metal utility trolleys are spacious and are useful at department stores, food marts and malls.  
 
Retail Detailz India Pvt. Ltd.
 
An end-to-end solution provider (specialising in manufacture, design and execution of shopfittings) to retailers, Retail Detailz India Pvt. Ltd. assists in setting up retail stores across the country. Set up in 2005, the company’s services include merchandising accessories, supermarket/ hypermarket shelving, fashion display, customised solutions, caddie shopping trolleys and checkout counters. In partnership with Caddie, Gokcelik, MRS Asia (Eden), some of the well-known names in the retail support industry, the company provides quality retail solutions at competitive prices.
 
Why Import?
 
Even though the demand for shopping trolleys has exponentially grown due to the growth of Indian retail, especially grocery retail, the domestic availability of shopping trolleys is abysmally low. With a large percentage of the domestic demand of the retailers being met by imports, the market is largely untapped by domestic manufacturers.
 
According to Bhushan Deshpande at Wanzl India, the ratio of imported shopping carts to domestic trolleys is a whopping nine to one. “Out of all retail equipment, shopping trolley is the most used equipment. Shelving, bins are typically stationed at specific areas in stores and hence suffer less wear and tear. But a shopping trolley is always on the move. Hence the quality of the product must be very good.
 
The surface treatments have to be of the best quality to survive in any given condition. Every customer wants trolleys with own configuration. Though it looks to be a simple product, a great deal of technology is used for making the high-quality shopping trolleys as Wanzl makes. Currently, no Indian manufacturer can offer all these benefits, hence much of the demand is met by imports,” he explains. 
 
Manish S. Oswal, proprietor, ShopEase Enterprises (manufacturer, exporter and importer of a wide assortment of material handling products including trolleys, baskets, display shelves, cash table and storage shelves) is of the opinion that imports are necessitated by the extremely low volume of domestic supply. He says, “There are hardly any domestic players to supply on volume basis.” Deviating slightly from Deshpande’s estimates, Oswal believes that the supply of shopping trolleys can be pegged at a 70:30 share, in favour of imports.
 
Endorsing these views, Deepak Manik, director of Retail Detailz (India) Pvt Ltd., which is a leading supplier to retailers such as , Aditya Birla Retail, Spinach, etc, adds, “Currently more than 75 percent of the shopping trolleys are imported. The main reason is the lack of availability of a good quality product locally. For hand-held baskets though, a majority of the supply is met by local producers.”
 
Popular import Destinations
 
On being asked from which parts of the world most shopping trolleys are imported from, Manik says, “Most of the imports are from countries like France, Germany and China, the reason being that the landed cost for a direct import definitely works out to be lower as compared to a local product for a retailer. The price of a locally-made product invariably tends to be higher than an imported product after one adds excise duties and local taxes.”
 
According to Deshpande, China is where most of the trolleys are imported from. “The reason is simple economics,” he says. “Cost benefits are the highest from China. Most of the European trolley manufacturers like Wanzl have manufacturing facilities in China. Through this manufacturing strategy, Indian retailers get access to a European quality product from China at very competitive prices. Apart from cost benefits, the transit time and availability of ships are better from Shanghai, hence there are minimal challenges on the deliver front. In terms of production time as well, China is very flexible.”
 
Oswal adds that apart from China, Taiwan is another popular import destination. High production capacities, lower fixed costs, lean management and availability of labour at extremely competitive rates are some of the reasons why most shopping trolleys are imported from these countries. 
 
Basic Requirements
 
So what does it take to up a trolley and shopping basket manufacturing business? Manik says, “Due to the sheer volume of these products, and the high investment in machinery and plating facilities, a physical set-up of at least 75,000 square feet and an investment of approximately Rs 10 crore are required for a manufacturing facility to cater to the demands of our market.”  
 
According to Oswal, however, a shopping basket trolleymanufacturing unit can also be set up by companies with not very deep pockets. He says, “The basic capital requirement should not go anywhere above Rs 2 to 2.5 crores for a SME to set up a plant; in fact, this cost be further lowered by outsourcing a lot of the allied parts.”
 
Opportunity Lost?
 
With food and grocery expected to drive modern retail in India, to an outside observer, it is surprising to find a drought of domestic manufacturers of shopping basket/trolleys in this fact-modernising marketplace. Referring to the slow pace of domestic growth in this category, Oswal says, “The main deterrents to domestic production are government taxation policy and lack of availability of raw material in consistent quality for production purposes.”
 
Deshpande refers to the infancy of modern food retail in India as a primary contributing factor. “There are some domestic manufacturers around. However, one must remember that organised retail is still in the nappy stage in India,” he points out. “If one sees the appropriate growth in Indian economy and organised retail, and therefore, promise of a certain demand volume, domestic firms and international firms like Wanzl will consider starting manufacturing in India in a more positive light. This business is quantity-led. It is a lucrative business, but definitely not the most lucrative in retail.”
 
Manik notes that pace in the segment is picking up and acceleration can be expected in the times to come. Explaining further he says, “There a few local manufacturers in this segment already. Also, some foreign companies are planning to start manufacturing in India in collaboration with local suppliers.”
 
Oswal takes a slightly different view regarding the opportunity. “Rather than many more people getting into this manufacturing business, what is required are expert manufacturers in this field, who have state-of-the-art-knowledge and large production capacities,” he notes.
 
“Opportunity is lost not merely because the production capacity in India is still at a nascent stage, but also because of lack of business acumen and slow response time of the Indian manufacturers. For instance, if you send an inquiry in China or Taiwan or any South East Asian country barring India, the fastest reply will be from China or Taiwan, offering a wide range of styles and designs. For most Indian manufacturers, the response time to a query is not fast enough, and this is also one of the important reasons for destinations like China and Taiwan being preferred over local suppliers,” he confirms.