Allahabad- New horizon for retailing

Prayag (place of Sacrifice), is no longer a historian’s paradise. A city where god resides, now called Allahabad is both rich in culture and heritage as well as in its alluring markets. From thin lanes to the multi-brands the city is flickering in its climactic way.

Allahabad, the name derived from the one given to the city once in the history by Mughal Emperor Akbar, ‘Ilahabad’. ‘Ilah’ being Arabic for “god” and ‘-abad’, a Persian word for “to construct or to create”. It is a sacred city formerly called ‘Prayag’ in commemoration of a sacrifice done by Lord Brahma. It is best known as host to the mind boggling number of Kumbh pilgrims who visit this endearing city every 12 years. The most common sacred spot in Allahabad is Triveni Sangam, the confluence of three of the holiest rivers of the Hindu mythology, the holy Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Devout Hindus from all over India come to this sacred pilgrimage point to offer prayers and take a dip in the holy waters. It is believed that a holy dip taken at the Sangam washes away all sins.

The religious vehement has affected the people residing here, as the city is also called Tirtha- Raja, the king of all holy places. The Kumbh mela (fair) is considered especially auspicious. It draws about 15 million people and is the largest attended event in the world.

Kumbh mela is like a “Yogi convention”, where Yogi Sadhus (saints), holy people and pilgrims come from all over India. Many Sadhus come from various holy places, the most remote forests and mountain caves in the Himalayas. The most famous are Naga Babas, Shiva worshippers who are completely naked. They cover their bodies only with ash and wear their hair in dreadlocks which attracts huge number of people not only from India, but also across the globe.

Apart from the religious touch, the city of Amitabh Bachchan have a twist in the world of fashion, brand awareness among the generation Y and the typical people residing here. It is noticed that youths are brand victims and go for the brands like Levi’s, Killer, Lee, Madame, etc. The renowned universities, institutes and colleges that are famous not only in India but also throughout the world have huge capacity of students pursuing their education are highly fashionista. AllahabadUniversity also called the “Oxford of the East” gives scholars who are always in vogue with time. The crowd of Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT), one of the premier technology school of India and Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (IIIT-A) looks highly influenced by metalheads.

There are a number of small and large-scale industries in Allahabad district that play a vital role in the economy of the district. To name a few popular industries of the district are Triveni Sheet Glass Ltd, ITI Naini, Raymond Synthetics, Hindustan Cable Ltd Naini, IFFCO, and GEEP Industries. The renowned institutions like HarishChandraMehtaAtomicResearchCenter and CivilAviationTrainingCenter are also established here. The overall environment gives an amalgam of ethnic and verge of fashion.

Khadi Kurta’s and Pyjama is popular among the typical Allahabadi males, and Chikankari, work of art is classic among everyone. One would definitely have a couple of this in the wardrobe. Chiffon and georgette saris with zari embroidery and stone work which is usually done by the local Muslims women in their home worn by mostly married females. In the ceremonies, majority is seen in saris or kurta with heavy embroidery work, mirror bangles shining more than the lighting of ambience and vermillion on the forehead complete the kit.

The change

The emerging season of wedding add glister and glitter in the markets. The main shopping areas like Civil Lines, Katra and Chowk seen in all vibrant colors. Women shopping for saris, dress materials, footwear to suit the occasion. The sales of matching center increases as the purchased saris will have a matching blouse and dress material look for dupatta to make it complete and no longer anachronistic. Even the hypermarket Big Bazaar located in Atlantis Mall, civil lines, has merchandise for this season.

When a mall was opened in Allahabad, it was the matter of excitement for its inhabitants and they find the place for picnic and outing with the family. Allahabad’s only shopping mall, Atlantis is owned by Ajay Singh, son of former Prime Minister of India, V. P. Singh. The mall has a Big Bazaar, Reebok outlet, Adidas showroom, and brand outlets of Madame, Octave, Wills Lifestyle, John Players, Lee, Wrangler, Levi’s, etc. Filling stations are Mc Donald’s and Kafe Kona which invites plenty number of footfalls. Local resident Rita Srivastava spotted at Mc Donald’s says, “It is really cool that Mc D has opened in Allahabad. The city was in need of such renowned eating out place. My children demand to come here every weekend and it’s a good outing in a small city. Although they have less variety as compared to the Mc D’s in tier I cities but we all are loving it”. Here Mc D doesn’t provide various types of floats.  The mall has also a Planet M store and attracts plenty of crowd. Now resident prefer going to Big Bazaar to buy groceries rather than buying from the commodity store nearby their house. The offers provided by the Big Bazaar have an overwhelming response by the localites. Big Bazaar was opened on Nov 11th, 2006. It is the 36th Big Bazaar in the country and fourth in Uttar Pradesh after Gaziabad, Lucknow and Agra. The multi-level store provides shoppers with 40,000 square feet of shopping experience 365 days a year. Service class people go on Sundays or Holidays as the main shops are closed on these days. Locals prefer coming here as they can extract the maximum out of the monthly budgets and get their household requirement under one roof. The mall will soon have a multiplex.

Salasar Retail Ltd, or Salasar, opened was the first retail outlet in Allahabad, and today running successfully. It is a multi-story outlet serves starting from groceries to apparels and footwear, large-format store Incorporated in 2006. Its competitor Vishal Mega mart came to the city soon after the opening of Salasar. Being able to serve the versatile needs of lifestyle conscious consumers within a span of more than two years, the company targets middle and lower income group. Spencer’s retail, the largest multiformat retailer chain in India was also opened last year. The stores stock the necessary range and assortment in fruit and vegetables, FMCG food and non-food, staples and frozen foods and cater to the daily and weekly top-up shopping needs of the consumer. Soon after its success in the city another store was opened to provide convenience and comfort to the consumers. Now, the city has two Spencer’s store.

Besides the mall and retail outlets, city of Sangam has vast number of brand outlets. Peter England, Parx, Louis Philippe, Spykar, Khadims, Lilliput, K-Lounge, Koutons, Park Avenue, Raymond, etc. have good space here. City also has Style Spa furniture retail showroom and Electronic retail, Asha and Company top the list by providing all reputed electronic brands and products. It is the biggest showroom of electronics in Allahabad. Other retailers here are Archies, Tanishq, The World of Titan, etc and Salon of Shahnaz Hussain and Lakme are also in the race to extol the customers.

Premium Family Store

 Madan Collection, owned by Sachdev Brothers is the most renowned store in Allahabad, situated in the posh area of Civil Lines offers the widest variety of merchandise and a lot of choice in terms of brands under one roof. The store targets upper middle class. The shop has just about everything apparel, accessories, eyewear, watches, fragrances and lingerie’s. It also offers services to the customers of home delivery, alteration, old clothes which needs changes of elastic and zippers, knowing customers by name, keeping records of their birthdays which give personal touch to the customers. The store has a good reputation among the customers and they prefer walking the store rather than moving towards the brand outlets. It has around 30 brands. The main brands are Allen Solly, Van Huesen, Levi’s, Pepe Jeans, Zodiac and Color Plus. The premium brands are Espirit, Ray Ban and Pierre Cardin. The owner of the shop, Karan Sachdev said, “Initially it was a setback when giant ventures like Big Bazaar opened, but now it is settled and again the store is in the form”.

The store enjoys it highest sale during the pre Diwali and Eid Season but also the response during the wedding season is good as the customers prefer casual wear during the Diwali time and more ethnic in the season of wedding. The daily footfall is more than 200, on weekdays and Saturdays, the store remains closed on Sundays; the conversion rate is 85-90 percent. “The store is ten years old and has a turnover of 3-4 crores per year”, Sachdev added. It has fragrance from Espirit and Davidoff and purchased by the limited and royal customers. The demand also forced them to stock the accessories and apparels from Satya Paul and Rocky S. The store is not permitted to bargaining, but they have membership schemes for the customers. On an annual purchase of Rs. 20,000 and above the store offers free purchase of 10 percent.

Sachdev further quotes, “Some customers are not aware of the brand but they have good money and get good buy. They are loyal customers and mainly of 30 to 40 years of age. We make them aware of the brands and provide them merchandise from the premium brands and designers”. The advertisement is mainly done by the print media as the rates of hoardings are pretty high. The store has no direct competition in the city and planning for its expansion by opening another store in the city and introducing more international brands for their customers. They prefer giving eco- friendly paper bags rather than the non usable plastic ones.

 Gangotri – The land of Ganga.

 This showroom, owned by the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, also called UP Export Corporation is in the verge of extinction. The shop has nice and decent variety of Handloom and Handicraft products which are made in Uttar Pradesh and has its unique specialty and importance. They have a sale of around 1 crore per year and after entering the giants like Big Bazaar, Style Spa and other outlets in the city, the store has faced the high level of competition. The customers entering in the store has decreased by 30 percent within a year. The showroom has Banarasi Silk Saris ranging from Rs.2000 to Rs 12000, woven by the poor weavers with fine zari work. The glimpse of each sari can easily charm a shopaholic. The store also has Brass ware and white metal utensils from Moradabad, Chikankari sari and kurta from Lucknow, Shawls from Garhwal, Carpets and Durries from Bhadohi, Handloom cotton bed sheets and furnishings coming from Meerut and Gaziabad and finely crafted by the inlay work of brass the furniture from Saharanpur. All furniture has unique carving done on the wood and looks magnificent.

The costumers are reputed doctors, advocates, judges and politicians based in the city. High Court is situated in the heart of the city and has large number of lawyers and judge. Allahabad has given the seven of Prime Ministers of India. “The Government is commercially promoting the business and due to the lack of advertising the costumers are decreasing. We give discount of 10 percent to the VIP’s and offer festival and clearance discount with season,” said S.B. Singh, Showroom Manager. He added, “Daily 100- 150 customers walk in the store and 80 percent make purchases”. The shop is closed on Sundays and also has Visa card pay facility.

Future Scope

The city will have more retail complexes in the coming year. Pantaloon and Westside are heading towards Allahabad soon. Under the franchise deal, Trent, the Tata Group’s Retail Company will own and provide the stock to the upcoming department store, Westside. Neeti Chopra, head of marketing, Trent, said, “The Company will own stores in top 30 cities and open stores under the franchise route in the rest of the cities. The franchise route will help us to overcome the property challenge in these cities and scale up our operations quickly. We will also get the first mover advantage in these cities, which do not have much retail presence,” Chopra said.

Café Coffee Day and Baskin Robbins opened few months back has become the popular hangout place for the youth as it is in the high profile area Civil Lines and near to the various colleges. The rentals for space in the Civil Lines are higher than the other areas. Individual shops in this area also have high rate than any other street in Allahabad as it is considered to be one of the main area for shopping. The city development chart is increasing per day and more domestic and international brands are finding their place to settle down.

The localites are getting aware of the latest trends and brands. Youths were spotted wearing slim fits, ultra low waist, cling fit and 501 from Levi’s, body tattooed and pierced. Thus, concluded that the brands outlets are at par by opening their stores here. Domestic brand Monte Carlo, of Oswal Woollen Mills, which launched a new store in the city recently, has experienced this growth. Shakeel Ahmed, owner of the shop says, “Response from the customers is good as we are advertising through radio FM and conversion rate is 70-75 percent”. Need for diversifying has motivated him to take franchise. These stores have brought a revolution in the holy city and the growth rate is giving opportunities for more retail companies to become a part of the king of all holy places, Allahabad.

Compulsive Shopping and spending addiction

They say them oniomanic as they have the uncontrollable desire to buy things. Some people spend in compulsive buying or buying on occasion. It’s most common during the weekends or a holiday, as a remedy for mild depression or boredom. Most of the people keep this under control of themselves, but a many develop a more serious problem. They buy things more than they require and mostly they will never use it. It sometimes results in high bills of credit card. These people are often dismissed as being financially irresponsible. In a society where empathy is on materialism, compulsive behavior of shopping has been ignored. It not only effect financially but also emotional and mentally. A person having depression, boredom or emotional distress may set off an impulse to shop. Shopping gives them euphoria or makes them high. They will buy things to make them feel more powerful, attractive, or secure. There is usually a consequence later, followed by guilt over the wasted money or debt which is called buyer’s remorse. They start getting the sense of regret after purchasing the product. It is more frequent in case of an expensive product which will be useless later. Buyer’s remorse can happen due to the influencing of the brand staff or a wrong decision made at that point of time or to show off in the group of friends. This leads to depression in later times, which can be a case of another episode of compulsive buying for sense of relief.

The compulsive shopping behavior can be caused by many reasons. Root cause is the anxiety or a mood swing. There can be a case of the product whose advanced model has to be launched next week but the shopaholic cannot control themselves not to buy that product and wait for some time more. This is the anxiety of having the owner of the product. This happens due to the circle around them is all materialistic and compare their expensive products with others. Now as the new model is getting launched so it will not be purchased back or to the other people at the price paid while buying it. This leads to the remorse. In the phase of buying that product the buyer feels excited and has happy emotion but afterwards think about the negative aspects of that product. Generally, shopping addiction tends to affect more female than males. It is a women’s nature to often buy things they do not need.  It lead to a pile of clothes in their wardrobe and possessions with the price tags attached which will never be removed as they forget what all they own. Now to clean their wardrobe, they start cleaning up the wardrobe and throwing away the stuff which still has a tag with a reason that they look old. These people who are consider shopaholic go for the shopping with a purpose of buying one or two thing which they have planned but end up with lots of shopping bags. There are another set of emotional black-out buyer who forget when the reach the shopping center that what they have come to buy and end up buying all other things rather than the required ones.

The act of spending money creates in some the same high that thrill seekers and risk takers experience. Spending is out of control. It becomes a thing of secrecy, moneys get borrowed, credit cards are maxed, bills go unpaid and lies get told. Shame and guilt become constant companions and fear of discovery haunts the addict at every turn. There comes the post purchased rationalization. After buying an expensive product the shopper now overlooks any faults or defects in order to justify their purchase. Expensive purchases often involve a lot of careful research and deliberation, and many consumers will often refuse to admit that their decision was made in poor judgment. Many purchasing decisions are made emotionally, based on factors such as brand-loyalty and advertising, and so are often rationalized retrospectively in an attempt to justify the choice.

To prevent these shopping binges and disorders prefer buying with cash rather than on credit cards. This will give to hold your monthly budget and makes you realize the product you are buying is whether necessary or not. Don’t take shopping as your hobby or a sport. Marking reasons that there is a sale, I am bored or it’s my habit to shop doesn’t solve the problem. You can make a strategy of leaving your credit cards at home or removing the source of your guilty pleasures. Don’t follow the phrase shop till you drop but instead use shop till you stop. Compulsive shoppers themselves often have a sense of what drives them. Some suffer from low self-esteem and think the perfect dress or accessory will help overcome it. Always make a shopping list before proceeding for the shopping center and ensure that you only those products which were mentioned in the list. Avoid visiting to the discounted stores or a sale period till you are not looking for something specific to buy. If you do visit the sale allow yourself to spend a limited amount only don’t end up in buying everything as the price is half. In case you are planning to go for window shopping just you are getting bored. Leave your wallet or cash behind.

Going out and buying a whole bunch of stuff makes you feel better about yourself. Some might argue it’s really just an attempt to bolster your self-esteem but unfortunately, it probably doubles back on itself and causes you to have higher anxiety and lower self-esteem if it gets out of hand when you’re a compulsive buyer. The difference between compulsive buying and other addictions is that compulsive buying is condoned by society. It’s important to understand what you’re really shopping for, what are the underlying authentic needs. Are you shopping because you’re lonely? Or are you shopping to celebrate? And find other ways to meet those important needs.

Customer service in Indian Retail Industry

One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others– Lewis Carol

Today, India has become an exciting and active retail destination with the malls opening every round the corner but why still people are visiting a kirana (mom-and-pop store) store for the purchases and it is still a benchmark in the value service. The moment of truth has not arrived when the customer will blindly choose to shop in a retail store. A customer is the most important person in any business and the companies are dependent on them. It should be a company’s purpose to serve the customers as the part of their business.  A customer is not only a cash bank but he is the person with the feelings and respect. There is no profit or growth in the company if there is no customer. He deserves all the attention of the service person as he only pays the bonuses and incentives. An Indian customer particularly looks into the consistency, reliability and predictability value which not exactly the best price and reasonable simplicity.  He does not have the knowledge of all the products, as he still visits the kirana (mom-and-pop store) shop to buy his favorite item. He is not used to in exploring the same product in different brands. He doesn’t have the feeling of being valued as important.

The retail formats in India still has to raise the par to improve the customer service. It requires the various techniques of making a customer valuable. They should be above and beyond the call of duty. They should give the information about the each product without encouraging them to buy it. The customer should decide what is right for him. A good customer service is the one which offer choices to the customers. Lack of variety always repels the customers. He needs respects hence the attendant should listen to him with appropriate and a friendly smile to make him comfortable. The customer service person should admit their mistake which is still lacking in the Indian Retail. The customers are treated inept if they approach for the service. Gentle apologies make the service stronger the customer happy. Companies are so focused on sales and cost cutting that they can’t see service as a commodity when it’s right in front of them. That’s actually what a service contract is all about.

8 Myths to make Indian customers happy-

Marketing and promotions:-

Look out for the ways to promote the product by involving customer. Pamphlets or banner bores the customers. They are not interested in reading what is written or carrying a piece of paper with their chic outfit and a classy handbag. Customers are interested what is happening around them, loves participating in the event and moreover become happy if they are awarded. Make them participate in the promotions. Give a small surprise gift, it can be a sample or a GV or an exclusive invite to view and feel the product. Customer will never forget the experience and will lead to the brand loyalty.

Build a customer loyalty program:-

It doesn’t mean that the loyalty should be in monetary terms. A customer can only become loyal when he will receive the service above his expectation. It can be a personalized greeting to him when he visits to the store or a birthday surprise with a greeting card or prior information of the new launches. Small surprises make the customers remember the service. With this program now the customer know that he will be welcomed to the store and he looks forward to shop with the sense of place.

Provide a remarkable customer service:-

Today everyone is doing the same, so why not go one step ahead to treat the customers with a creative and more personalized approach to them. Same customer service is not suitable for all the customer like a same pair of denims cannot be fitted to a thin and a bulky person. Let’s take an example- It can be possible that out of 2 customers one customer make a list of products he wants to buy and be sure about his purchases. He is the one who does not want to spend extra penny in other things. But the second customer loves shopping. He is not sure what he has to buy. After visiting the store and doing window shopping he decides to buy the products which he likes. He is the customer who has the money and ready to spend it to make himself satisfied. Both the customers deserve a different type of customer service. Get to personally know your customers and recognize their individual needs. Above all, make certain that what you are offering really is something that your customer can value, that’s the key to good customer service.

Customer is the boss, he is always right:-

If customer complaints about something trust him that he must be right and show the seriousness to handle it. Read the expression of the customer whether he is angry or upset and quiet him with friendly words and attention giving to him. Tell him that how valued his nature of problem is.  Explain him what steps will be taken to solve out his problem. Do not keep a customer in a shady situation. This increases his anxiety which will lead in losing the patience. Even if the customer is wrong on the part, tell him the policy to know about the service or in case of an angry or a loyal customer, better to take the loss and create the loyalty in him. After the customer is satisfied with the service and his complaint has been addressed properly, thank him for bringing the problem to the attention. Nothing is better than marketing by the word of mouth.

Social media an important tool for customers:-

Social media sites are amplifying the voice of people in the marketplace and are having profound and far-reaching effects on the ways in which people buy. Customers can now research companies online and then ask for recommendations through social media channels, as well as share opinions and experiences on companies, products and services. As social media is not as widely moderated or censored as mainstream media, individuals can say anything they want about a company or brand, positive or negative. These views should be handled properly. Don’t treat the customers in such a way to write such suggestion. Note that these customers have friends and those friends have another set of friends. It can hamper the business.

Honesty is the best policy:-

Always be honest with the customers. Never try to fool customers by providing the wrong data. In the world of internet it is very easy to trace the information about any product. Also, major mistake done by the most companies is by discounting the products which are near to the expiry and hiding the expiry date or the out dated products. Also, if the product is near to the expiry don’t be tempted to sell it off on customers without informing customer that it’s a reject or of inferior workmanship. If customer asks for advice on a product, don’t try to sell the item that best enhances the bottom line not the quality of the product. Make him aware of all the options and let him select as he know what the item is best for him. Later this bottom line will be thankful for making the customers.

Staff training and development:-

Train the staff that each customer is very important as the staff represent the company. Tell staff to care about the customers. The staff should have all the product knowledge of what is getting sold. Poor communication skill of the staff can lead to the loss of customer. If the staff is not aware of the language that customer is comfortable to speak then this customer should be attended by another staff who is well versed in that language. This will make customer realize how important they are to the company.  Show the customer what he exactly wants. Not mislead him to show the higher margin products. The staff should always wear a friendly smile and gesture. The customer should not feel ignorant. In case one company fails to take care of customer there is always a competitor to welcome them.

Customer feedback:-

The feedback is one of the ways to know about how the service has been provided, whether the customer is satisfied before, during and after purchase. Rate the experience as per the customer’s feeling. Listen to the customer’s point of view. He is the person with the box of ideas. Tell him that the idea will be implemented soon. If possible inform the customers that the idea for the betterment has been implemented and ask him to visit again to experience the same. This will create the feel good factor in the customers. Always ask customers the way of improvement. It can be a case where customer has noticed what is lacking which is not visible by the employees.

Any organization can have good customer service. It doesn’t require having genius employees to achieve customer service. Whether the organization is selling a luxury product, FMCG, or a meal at a restaurant, it works. All it requires to follow the process from beginning to end and create a repeatable formula that allows the service person to guide the customer through the process. The aim should be to offer such an experience to the customer which is beyond their expectation. Image