Bhubaneswar, known as the ‘Temple City of India’, has become an obvious retail destination quite recently. In fact, retailers including Future Group and Spencer’s Retail do not even hesitate to term the city as their next best market in the East after Kolkata. It started in early 90s, when Bhubaneswar, along with most other Indian cities, started receiving large investments in the fields of higher education, IT and industrial developments. As a result, companies like Infosys have expanded their footprint in the city and eventually the city has turned out as one of the fastest growing IT hubs in the country.
With this development, new employment opportunities have been generated across sectors and it has created a new set of customers with disposable income in hands. As a result, retail and real estate players too found a new ground for development in the city and betted for the big game. Glitzy malls have come up to support the trend and opened the market for big retail brands like Future Group, Spencer’s Retail, Planet M, Pizza Hut, Provogue, Turtle, Duke, Levi’s, Koutons, John Players, Archies, Spykar, Welspun, Wrangler and Blackberry in the city.
Future Group, which operates four stores in the city including two Big Bazaar stores and one store each of Food Bazaar and Pantaloons now plans to open its other retail formats in the city soon as it sees huge opportunities in the city, confirmed its official sources.
Organised retail in Bhubaneswar gets a kickstart in 2004 when Kolkata based Saraf Group opened the city’s first mall called Forum Mart of around 2 lakh square feet retail space. The mall opened its door for over 50 national brands across apparel, food and lifestyle segments. Big Bazaar, the hypermarket format of Future group, made its entry into the city as an anchor tenant in the mall. With the success of the store, the group later opened its second Big Bazaar outlet in the city located at Maruti Mall in Patia. Further to that, the Group opened a Food Bazaar at Infocity, and Pantaloons at Suruchi Commercial Complex in Shaheednagar, both in stand-alone formats.
Apparel brand Turtle, which claims a strong presence in Bhubaneswar, operates two exclusive stores in the city, one at Forum Mart mall and the other at Pal Height mall, besides presence in seven MBOs including Pantaloons. Elaborating the retail experience in Bhubaneswar, Amit Saha, brand manager, Turtle, said, “Turtle is present over the last 15 years in the city and has developed a very strong brand image creating a very loyal customer base.”
On similar note, Sanjay Vakharia, director – Marketing, Spykar Lifestyles Pvt Ltd, which caters to young customers, stated that with the IT boom more young people are coming in and thus Spykar finds enough space to grow. He said, “In Bhubaneswar, customers are as evolved and educated about brands as their counterparts in most of the cities in India.”
Retail in Bhubaneswar at a glance
Key retail brands operational: Future Group, Spencer’s Retail, Planet Sports, Pizza Hut, Provogue, Turtle, Duke, Archies, Spykar and Blackberry
Operational malls: Forum Mart, Pal Height
Key retail locations: Kharvelnagar, Patia, Shaheednagar.
Footfalls at Forum Mart: 7000-8000 in week days; around 15,000 in week-ends
Upcoming mall: Forum Safari
Malay Ghosh, mall manager, Forum Mart who has been witnessing the growth of organised retail over the last five years, said that the traditional markets are still dominated by the large format multi-brand outlets. According to him, the brand consciousness has been increasing rapidly among the people and organised retail is getting pace significantly in the city. “When we opened Forum Mart in 2004, the customers were not accustomed to organised retail, but as the market matures, we see lot of changes. We somehow graduated the people towards brands,” claimed Ghosh.
The picture of the market also becomes clear from the official statement of Pizza Hut. Anup Jain, head-marketing, Pizza Hut said that the company is operational in the city over the last five years at Forum Mart mall and the store has been performing quite well. “The sale in this store is slightly higher than the average sale of Pizza Hut stores across the country,” stated Jain.
Although Bhubaneswar has been witnessing the growth of organised retail over the last five years, the traditional markets are still dominated by the large format multi-brand outlets.
However, Jain elaborated that with the evolution of the ‘eating out’ market, the company has seen an increase in the sales at its store. “For the last one year, sales have been jumping up suddenly and we have been getting almost 25 per cent increase in sales at the Bhubaneswar store,” stated Jain. He added that the trend is quite similar at stores in cities like Mysore, Mangalore and Rajkot, which are also classified as tier II towns.
Despite the facts that multiplex has been proved time and again as the crowd puller in malls, none of the malls in Bhubaneswar feature multiplex as one of the options. Vakharia at Spykar stated, “The customers are responding well and the mall going habit is also good. However, if any mall comes up with multiplex, it might mark a change in the scenario,” stated Vakharia.
While the industry at large believes that the city, which has been evolving rapidly, has enough space to construct retail developments, a particular section of the community believes that Bhubaneswar is not that big city with a much quality space for developing too many malls. “Two malls are fine for the city. In fact the new mall called Pal Height, which was opened last year, is still located at far off place from the heart of the city and is yet to develop as a shopping hub,” said Saha at Turtle. He further stated that once a project is constructed away from the city, the viability of the project always remains at stake and the same thing might happen for upcoming malls in Bhubaneswar as well.
But Ghosh confirms that Saraf Group is very keen and interested about Bhubaneswar and has been developing a 5 lakh square feet mall called Forum Safari in Bhubaneswar. The site of Forum Safari is around 2.5 kilometer away from Forum Mart, towards Cuttack-Puri highway and is surrounded by residential along with the highway in front of the site. “The project is awaiting the approval of Bhubaneswar Development Authority. When completed, it will be a significant development in the city, with a four-screen multiplex in it,” informed Ghosh.
— Sarimul Islam Choudhury