It is said that leadership is an influence. One doesn’t lead by pointing at a place and asking people to go there. One leads by going to that place and making a case. Similarly, leaders from different brands had to lead from the front in this fight for survival. The last one year was time for some serious strategic planning, decision making, investing in new areas, resuming business, implementing digitization, technology, innovations and also ensuring safety to the employees and consumers.
One such retail leader who led from the front was Anand Aiyer, Senior Vice President and Business Head, Easybuy. He spoke to IMAGES Retail Bureau about the challenges the brand faced during the pandemic, the learnings, the strategies and wins in the last one year.
Excerpts from the interview…
From your brand’s perspective, how did you fare during the lockdown and what was the consumer response in the initial Unlock phase?
We at Easybuy are very focussed on customer safety and experience. The prime focus was to train the manpower and establish safety practices to make the store a very safe place to shop. Standalone high street stores started performing better, while stores in malls continued to face challenges. Across markets, shoppers were cooperative in following safety guidelines and enabled us ensure safety of both store staff and shoppers.
What steps did you take to bring the brand firmly on the road to recovery?
I strongly believe that when times are tough, brands with true consumer loyalty always get back stronger and faster. We truly believe in making aspirations affordable from the very beginning and our shoppers trust us. Once customers started visiting stores, it only increased their confidence. Our recovery was faster than the industry. Kidswear saw very a good uplift during this time and led the recovery from the front. We also observed sharper recovery in Tier II & III markets which enhanced our overall pace of recovery as well. As we deliver styles at super prices, it continued to be the natural choice of shoppers, when they needed the best for every rupee they spent during these tough times.
Did you emphasize more on a digital presence in this time period or did you opt for the traditional retail model with minor adjustments?
While, we were putting together a digital journey for Easybuy, COVID-19 fast-tracked our journey in this space. We launched in the record time on Amazon marketplace in the month of July ’20 there be reaching out to Neo-India, who are aspirational when it comes to fashion, but value conscious. Also, we were able to connect with our audience and engage with them over social media to keep the brand interactions going. We will continue to pursue our Omni-journey and strengthen our digital presence.
Have you launched any innovative consumer experiences over the pandemic period?
With the customer at the centre of all our actions, multiple experiments and projects were undertaken. Some of the notable ones which were had great response from our shoppers are
- Pop-up stores reaching out to shoppers at their communities and catchments
- Video assisted shopping where we enabled shoppers to see merchandise through a video call and orders were delivered at customer’s door step
- Assisted shopping experience at stores to reduce touch by enabling product discovery better complemented with No-touch billing process
- Enhanced ‘exchange and returns policy’ enabling shoppers to buy & try at home, making it easy and comfortable to shop at ease
How has been the consumer response been like in the festival season? Were you able to match the level of business and profit last year?
Our focus has been about customer and staff safety in these difficult times. In terms of business revenue, we started recovering very well during the festive time to the tune of 85 percent of last year. While business revenues were very minimal immediately post Unlock phase, footfalls during festive has been very positive & encouraging. While standalone stores may reach 2019 levels from April ’21 onwards, we expect slower recovery in mall stores. Also, Tier II & III locations will recover faster than metros and that’s been the trend so far.
Stores in malls vs streets, which ones are bringing in more revenues / raking in more footfalls? Why?
Stores on streets have performed better in terms of recovery of footfalls and it is primarily due to natural movement of shoppers in a given area and for a particular need. Also, we witnessed very high conversation rates indicating serious shoppers visiting our stores.
How much has the company grown under your leadership during COVID?
My key priority was to take care of the people were around taking care of people – our employees, our partners & our beloved customers. I must say that the whole Easybuy team was single minded on standing for our customers & also for each-other all through the journey so far.
What are your future plans?
Easybuy will reach its fastest 100 stores in FY21 and by 2023, we would be 200 stores strong in over 100 Cities. We will also firmly strengthen its digital presence through a meaningful omni-journey, thereby enabling Neo-India experience Super Styles. I firmly believe that we will not only transform the value-fashion industry, but touch the very aspiration of Neo-India, by making quality fashion affordable for everyone