Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Unstoppable Retail Revolution in India

Will retail be the next wave, very much like IT was in the past decade? Read on.

What is it about retail these days? We hear and read about retail in the newspapers and on the TV - that a supermarket chain has plans to add 500 stores; that a department store is investing several crores for expansion; that another hypermarket is being launched and more will follow.etc. Why is there so much brouhaha in the world of retail? And is it for real? Is it going to impact the lives of you and me? How?

Let's try to put this euphoria into some perspective. The one billion plus Indians last year spent $322 billion or Rs.14,50,000 crores on their consumption needs. It is estimated that given the growth that Indian economy is on (never mind the current hiccups due to International Economic conditions) the Indian population (I wouldn't hazard a guess on how much that will be) will spend $593 billion or Rs.26,70,000 crores in the year 2012, just to meet its consumption needs - that would include all purchases that you and I make from a sewing needle to buying a vehicle and everything in between! And all that we buy for our personal consumption happens in a retail setting - whether you are buying your weekly groceries or buying the latest car in the market. By retail setting, I mean a shop of some kind - be it in a mall or next door to your home or office.

Having established the premise, it is easier to see why there is so much excitement. Firstly, for you and I to be spending our money on purchases, we need more and more shops to buy them from - shops closer to our homes and offices and at all the places we frequent. You may argue that you are actually spoilt for choice in your neighbourhood, because you have Foodworld, Spencer's; Nilgiris; More; Reliance Fresh etc. etc. Believe me, what you see today is just the tip of the iceberg. You and I may be the lucky few; think of our fellow country men and women in smaller cities, towns and villages. They too need what we need and therefore deserve to be served the way we in metros are. So, it is no surprise that every retailer in the country wants to expand their chains of network. The metros are nearing saturation and sooner rather than later, these retailers will move to mini-metros; smaller towns and villages(Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in demographic parlance).

I dare not mention what the international retailers would do when they eventually are allowed to set shop.

Therefore, it is fairly commonsensical to assume that if every retailer opens more stores in every nook and corner of the country, where you and I and all our fellow countrymen can spend their money (hard-earned or otherwise!), they will need people to manage their stores and keep it filled with what we want and serve us when we visit them. Simply put; they will need people - it is estimated that about 15 lakh fresh jobs will be created in retail by 2012. That's just direct retail jobs. More jobs in associated areas will also be created simultaneously - If a teenager in your neighbourhood gets the job of a saleswomen in a swanky department store; her father may get employed in the transport company that supplies goods to her stores or in the security company that safeguards the store or the housekeeping company that maintains it!

Organised retailing - which is what we hear about nowadays - is very new in our country and finding people experienced in professional retailing companies, is difficult. Nevertheless, the need for 1.5 million people has to be met. Which means that practically everyone with an attitude to serve and willing to work on their two feet for 10-12 hours a day (irrespective of their gender, religion, caste and political beliefs) is in demand? A popular large retailer is known to be hiring housewives for part-time jobs (both, for their in-store as well as for back-end jobs). They will be trained; paid for and looked after well for their services. Those who come with relevant experience can expect to find supervisory and managerial level jobs in retail, of course with handsome rewards.

For those aspiring to make a career in retail, there are also many education institutions offering training programs - from certificate and diploma courses to professional degree courses - in retail.

If Information Technology (IT) was a wave a decade ago, retailing in India is a tsunami - a tsunami that has just been triggered. One with a positive effect - that will provide more jobs and meet many an aspiration for the average Indian.

Whenever I've introduced myself as a Bangalorean, I've been faced with one inevitable question - ''What IT company do you work for?'' But that's likely to change soon. In the years to come, no matter what city or town or village you hail from; you shouldn't be surprised if you are asked ''What Retail company do you work for?''

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Science of Shopping

Some of us go shopping to just be up-to-date with what is around us - what we commonly know as 'window-shopping'- which means that you do not have any specific need or requirement that you want to fulfil, but visit a retail space to become aware of the latest products and services or even the fashion trends.

Some of us go shopping because it makes us feel good - you find yourself amidst people who are fulfilling their needs and wants by purchasing products or brands for their consumption - there is excitement, chaos, commotion and an elated feeling of well-being - which can ward-off any feeling of gloom or depression. Thus shopping becomes therapeutic - known as 'retail therapy' (I believe that many women are programmed at birth to be natural shoppers.and I've known many husbands who encourage their wives to go shopping, either with wads of cash or with half a dozen plastic cards, as that would give them that rare sense of freedom - very therapeutic in a different way!

Some of us go shopping to kill time or to just catch-up with friends or to take a break between work or home or just as an escape from routine. With the advent of malls, shopping has become an outing for most families, members of which are busy during the week in their respective jobs, but find time to meet over weekends. They visit malls or shopping centres together, thus engaging in an act of fulfilling their individual and collective needs as a family and also being in one another's company (which is why retailers and malls experience an increased level of customer traffic over weekends).

Even the way we shop differs; some of us make a detailed check-list of all the things to buy, especially when we go shopping for our monthly/fortnightly supply of groceries and home needs (and usually end up buying more than what is in the list!). Some of us get into a store and fill the carts with whatever seems appealing to us. When on one of your shopping trips you discover an unfamiliar product on the shelves, your curiosity is aroused and when you enquire or read up about it, you suddenly realise an uncontrollable urge to possess it! It's also true that some of us shop like there is no tomorrow! Shopping means and does different things to different people.

The title of the now popular book 'Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus' is very true about retail as well. Paco Underhill, a researcher of shopping trends, has a modified version of that belief. He says 'Men are from Sears Hardware (a chain of hardware stores in the US) and women are from Bloomingdale's (a popular chain of department stores in the US)'. His research at a houseware store in the US showed that women shopping with other women spent 8 minutes and 15 seconds on an average; while women with children took about 7 minutes and 19 seconds. When women shopped by themselves; they spent 5 minutes and 2 seconds. When women shopped with men, they spent only 4 minutes and 41 seconds inside the shop! Now how's that to prove who the naturally gifted shopper is?

I'm tempted to invite these researchers to India and let them study the behaviour and patterns of how Indian women shop for sarees and jewellery! I'm sure that will throw some mind boggling statistics, worthy of considering for the book of records! Retailer's in India are becoming aware of who makes the major purchase decisions for the family and are designing their communication and store ambience to attract and increase the dwell-time of their target customers.

The Retailers' Deepawali

Will the coming Deepawali be as bright, if not brighter than, the last one? But, why are we asking that question in the first place? What with the global economy slowing down, spreading its gloom on the otherwise chirpy Indian economy? What with the inflation almost breaching the psychological barrier and what with India, almost stopping short of slipping into a technical recession? Will the festival of lights this year dispel darkness and usher in light? That's the question bothering the retail fraternity, as it is lurking somewhere in the minds of corporate India.

Let's examine the situation closely - first, the economy. Inflation has begun to recede and is now closer to the 12% mark rather than the 13% mark that it recorded recently. But yet more than double the cruising speed of 6% that it was at the beginning of this year. What does that mean? It means that money is becoming more expensive. We are having to pay more than usual for the goods and services that we WANT - like air travel; eating out at restaurants; staying at star hotels etc; which is mostly going to be the concern of corporates; whose executives travel; stay at hotels and eat at restaurants outside of their home stations. Not just that, we are also having to pay more for the goods and services that we NEED - such as everyday food and grocery; vegetables and fruits and not to mention, fuel - which is what pinches the pockets of people like you and me. Will the rising cost of goods and services dampen the Deepawali spirit?

Well, at the outset, what I have personally noticed is that people's expenditure on fire crackers over the years has been declining. I don't remember when I last spent on fire crackers for the family. Urban India is becoming increasingly aware of the environmental pollution that firecrackers contribute towards and want to do their bit in not adding to it. Therefore, I foresee a far lesser expenditure on fireworks in metros and mini-metros. What else happens in the world of retail during the festive season?

There are bound to be offers and promotions galore in practically all formats of retail - mostly retailers of electronics; apparel; silk and jewellery will come up with their most innovative marketing spells yet! In electronics for example, there will be freebies on every purchase - only that earlier, you could expect to get a water-filter free if you bought a 29" TV, but now it could well be that you may get a 350lt double-door refrigerator free with every 32" LCD TV that you buy! The supermarkets and hypermarkets will not be left alone - they will run their own versions of offers and promotions - you will probably be in the running for a grand prize of a BMW - in a lucky draw if you made purchases over say, Rs.4,999. No, there is not even the remotest connection between onions or potatoes and a Beemer!

What more, you may even get interest free credit - seemingly of course; when you buy that 52" plasma TV, and want to pay in 36 instalments. Remember, our country is blessed with some of the best brains in the marketing world - haven't you seen how many golden lions our advertising agencies have amassed at the Cannes? We can make any event - from blockbusters to cricket matches into money spinners; with related merchandise, freebies and other memorabilia. On the flip side, you and I have long put on hold the intention to buy that 3BHK apartment or upgrade to a swanky sedan. But certainly, we are not the kind that will put away the idea of picking up 3 shirts for Rs.999 and getting 2 trousers worth Rs.1,299 free! Are we?

At least not when such purchases happen in an impulse; when you are least expecting them. Add to that, most of us have enough credit cards in our wallets that collectively can put a plastic manufacturer's warehouse to shame; bulging from hip-pockets of already unsteady denims that are precariously hanging from indescribable waist-lines! Well, who's bothered about shirts and trousers during Deepawali? Shouldn't we be talking of silk sarees, gold earrings, bangles and necklaces? Of course, we should. Silk merchants are an uncelebrated lot. It is surprising that in a nation of close to 400 million women, most of who wear sarees, there is no organised saree retail chain across the country. The lure of silk or even non-silk sarees on women is a subject matter worthy of exclusive treatment. Remember, here too, there are bound to be promotions and offers. Who says you need promotions and offers for women to shop for sarees? Thankfully, gold prices have begun to go southwards after the peak that they were at some months ago. And, jewelry retailers are about to woo the women folk with their 'NO making charges' offers. There is a popular belief that 'Man is a victim of circumstances' - I would believe so, if he is married or has an equally compassionate girlfriend!

Therefore, with none of us wanting to cut down on our accustomed lifestyles and habits and having put away major capital intensive and wasteful purchases; the average Indian is going be unaffected by rising prices, just as he is unaffected by the pot-hole ridden roads; incessant power-cuts and dry taps that are all part of India at 61. Come what may, there is nothing that would dampen the spirit of a true Indian and definitely not during the festival of lights! Retailers may not touch unreasonably aggressive targets but will have their cash registers ringing nevertheless.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Retail Primer

Imagine these nerve wrecking situations that we find ourselves in way too often - you are throwing a party over the weekend and inviting your close friends home and your wife wants to prove that she’s a better cook than your friends’... or your mother wants you to buy her some fresh vegetables for that special family dinner tonight… Your son is late for school and calls out from the bathroom for soap that you ran out of yesterday and forgot to replace…

You have landed that much coveted job and want to impress your new colleagues on your first day at work; you definitely want a fresh wardrobe to look up-to-date..! It’s only when you are getting ready for work and look yourself in the mirror, running your palm over your stubble that you realise that you squeezed the last ounce of shaving cream from its tube yesterday...

Individually, these are mundane situations. But they usually throw us out of gear and leave us in a dilemma, rendering us unable to choose the right destination for our shopping.

The dilemma is one of choice. A decade ago, the choice was simple. You always went to your friendly neighbourhood grocery to shop for all day-to-day requirements – be it rice, sugar, toothpaste or hair oil. And you patronised only the lone cloth merchant on the main street near your house or office to buy fabric to be stitched by your family tailor or you went to one of those run-down stores that called itself the ‘departmental’ store to pick-up readymade apparel. (It will require a great deal of convincing Indian retailers that there is nothing ‘departmental’ about their businesses - besides being semantically incorrect, you will only find ‘department store’ in the retail lexicon).

Back to our dilemma; do you run to the neighbourhood grocery or do you go to that new-fangled ‘supermarket’ down the street? Or is it better to make a weekend trip with family to either a mall or that big box called ‘Hypermarket’ – providing you have the energy and patience to drive that agonising 10 kms.

A bar of soap or a 100 gms tube of shaving cream are the same no matter where you buy them from – either your neighbourhood grocer or the supermarket. Where you choose to shop however, is determined by what you want (the purpose) and how soon you want it (the immediacy of your need). What the retail world likes to call ‘a planned purchase’ or ‘an emergency purchase’ or merely ‘an impulse purchase’. And if you are wondering; studying why people buy what they buy is indeed a science.

Of course, in the above examples, the soap is an emergency and so is the tube of shaving cream. But, the veggies for dinner or supplies for the party can surely wait. And you really do not want to rush through choosing your new wardrobe.

Retailing in India is undergoing a sea change. Even traditional ‘retailers’ have long discarded their philosophy of “Buy Low; Sell High and keep the difference” and are quickly imbibing the virtues of serving their customers. ‘One-man’ or ‘one-family’ enterprises that comprise most of the 12 million retail outlets in India are making way for large, corporate funded, professionally managed entities. We therefore see a whole gamut of neat, clean and air-conditioned stores that offer the ‘touch and feel’ factor in self-service formats.

Given the plethora of choices, there seems to be a need for un-cluttering our minds and de-mystifying the esoteric world of ‘Organised’ or ‘Modern’ Retail. The next time we are in a tight spot about choosing a shopping destination, we know what ‘format’ of store to choose that meets our unique needs and yet offers maximum benefit.

Opportunities in Retail in India

A Customer Service Executive(CSA) is one of the most crucial links in the retail chain. Delving into his/her role.

I was recently driving back home after an usually disorderly and long day at work. I didn't realise it was past 10pm and it suddenly occurred to me that I had procrastinated purchasing some biscuits and chocolates for my six-year-old nephew who was arriving with the family the next morning. All my usual shopping destinations enroute - Spencer's and More - were all closed. As I drove through the narrow and winding roads of Chennai, I discovered a faint light at the corner of a deserted street. I got off my car to try my luck at this pigeon-hole sized grocery. Thank god for the existence of mom-and-pop stores! I gallantly fought the stench from the rotten vegetables and eggs discarded outside the store and carefully tip-toed to the front of the counter, where I was face to face with the shop-keeper.

Thambi vs the CSA

A closer look at what drives consumers back to the store.

Spoilt as I am from shopping at the brightly lit and air-conditioned supermarkets; I missed being able to stare at 12-16 running feet of biscuits of all brands, sizes, shapes and colours neatly displayed on open shelves that was all there for my choosing. I could also have been assisted by trained youngsters in uniforms, willing to help. Alas, I would have none of these.

When I returned from my short reverie. I summoned the courage to ask the shop-keeper if he sold any biscuits. I wasn't sure what brands he had and how fresh they would be. He immediately instructed his assistant, thambi, of my need. The ever agile thambi - clad in a pair of torn shorts and ill-fitting t-shirt - jumped over two bags of rice and hoisted himself upon a third, and precariously balanced on his toes to pull down three dusty packs of biscuits. "Ten ripees each, Saar," said thambi with the most triumphant smile.

In a different incident, I found myself irresistibly drawn by a catchy display of a shirt in an unusual shade of pink in a show-window at a department store in Bangalore recently. And before I knew it, I found myself in the men's section of the store. I had barely made it before their closing time. The member of the staff (CSA or customer service associate) on seeing me enter the store, approached with a warm smile and greeted me. "Good evening Sir, How may I assist you." I told him I was looking for the pastel pink shirt displayed on the mannequin in the show window. "This way please, sir," he said and escorted me to the 'new arrivals' section. While I had found my size and was imagining how it would look on me; the CSA produced two other shirts saying "These are the all new wrinkle-resistant material, sir." and went on to explain how they don't require to be ironed etc., "No, thank you, let me just have the pastel pink please, size 40," I said, dismissing his efforts at "up-selling" (the art of encouraging the customer to buy a product that is more expensive than the one she wants). "This pair of khakis goes well with that shirt you just bought, sir," he coaxed, enticing me with a pair of superbly crafted trousers. (Notice his language; he had already sensed that I had made up my mind to buy the pink shirt and referred to it in past tense).

The experience in these two instances was miles apart; but what I received were two different flavours of customer service. I picked up three different types of biscuits; two bars of chocolate and a large pack of wafers from the dingy grocery that night - I wouldn't let thambi's efforts go in vain; not when it was accompanied by that warm smile! I also blew up six grand on the pink shirt; the pair of khakis; the tie and two t-shirts!

If you were to analyse the two examples, you will discover several remarkable components of customer service - firstly, it was marked by a genuine willingness to help; eager to make that extra effort to give me what I wanted (thambi would've climbed another sack of rice if he had to); secondly, it was reassuring and putting me at ease (never mind Sir, take your time); thirdly, the giver of the service was quick in his assessment of what would impress me (a fine trouser with an equally fine shirt I was interested in); fourthly, he possessed the information about the product he was selling and used his knowledge to educate me (wrinkle-free shirts need little maintenance); he helped me make an informed decision.

For those of you desirous of being part of the retail action; there are innumerable job opportunities in modern retail. It is estimated that the retail industry will generate 2.5 million (25 lakh) new jobs by 2010!

The role of a CSA is a stepping stone into the world of retail. For the deft and meticulous type, cashiering could be a good fit. There are other roles within a modern retail setting, both customer-facing and at the back-end. If you don't want to be in the limelight, you can be behind the scene.

If you are currently in sales or other customer facing jobs, it would help in you getting a head-start over the freshers in qualifying for supervisory positions. However, modern retailers invest time and resources in training.

Education outfits that recognised the potential have begun to design and offer diploma courses in retailing management. B-schools have not been far behind.

Some of the courses are offered at:

Welingkar Institute of Management

(; Bangalore Management Academy in association with Retailers Association of India (

Indian Retail school


Visual Merchandising

Visual merchandising is at the core of how a store is mapped - a look at how this enhances your shopping experience...

Imagine this. your wife has just ordered you to grab a bottle of 'Dragon' brand of vinegar for the Hakka noodles she is planning to experiment on you tonight. The association of 'Dragon' with 'noodles' is so strong that you effortlessly conjure up an image of the Great Wall of China on your mental LCD screen. Relax. You don't have to hit your head against a wall, nor is your search for vinegar stonewalled. Thankfully for you, a brand new supermarket has opened around the corner just last week.

When you reach the supermarket gasping for breath from the frantic run, you are hit by the numerous directions signs. 'Household needs'; 'Skin Care'; 'Hair Care'; 'Body Care', etc.; but your vinegar is still not in sight. You will then do the most unmanly thing of asking for directions to that bottle of vinegar that holds the fate of the rest of your evening. The friendly staff then guides you through a long aisle of racks to a section at the back called 'Food Additives' or 'Masalas & Spices'. After grabbing the bottle of vinegar; and also impulsively picking up the shaving cream, cologne; toothpaste; soap and a pack of chips for the little monster; you get a brainwave and remember to pick up a bunch of yesterday's spring onions from the 'Fresh fruits & vegetables' section!

Now, consider this. your sixth girlfriend and you are taking the escalator to watch a movie at the multiplex in the mall. While you are admiring other movie-goers, your girl has just caught sight of the mannequin in the show-window displaying a 'pastel green cotton floral top' from the 'Spring Summer' collection. (No; it's not your fault if mannequins now-a-days look like wax models from Madame Tussaud's). You notice her object of interest and pray that she says nothing about it. But, even before you've finished your prayer, she screams, "Hey.isn't this cute.?" Your rich experience with the previous five girlfriends, intuitively tells you exactly what will follow.

Your girl - as if she has sighted the very golden deer that Sita sighted in the Ramayana - will be persistent or rather obstinate about the green top; and before you realise it you are waiting outside the trial rooms holding four tops and two denims helping her try them one after the other.

You may curse the mannequin and the retailer, who set you behind by a little over ten grand towards the end of the month! But, welcome to the world of modern retailing. You've just sampled two examples of the role of 'Visual Merchandising' in Retail - what in one case is a quick guide to your destination within a store; in another, seems a path to personal bankruptcy.

Try to recall the last time you entered a store. you are likely to have encountered fruits and vegetables in a supermarket and cosmetics and perfumes in the beginning of the department store, usually to the left-hand side as you enter. (Studies have shown that most shoppers move towards their left on entering a store). These product categories are traffic generators in their respective formats and are thus strategically placed within a store.

Modern retailers invest in a lot of time and resources planning stores scientifically - they employ architects to create customer friendly store layouts and visual merchandisers to create aesthetical display of both merchandise and other in-store communication. They ensure that the aisles are wide enough to avoid "butt brush" or that you don't have to elbow yourself to your dragon vinegar!

It is not by some mistake that you find toothpastes; toothbrushes and dental floss under the 'oral care' section. Your shampoo, conditioner and hair colour will be under the 'hair care' section. 'Skin care' is where you find your soaps; creams; lotions; facial scrubs, etc. You will also notice that the three sections almost always co-exist. You are more likely to pickup a toothbrush (to replace the spike-head) if you find it placed next to toothpastes. Similarly, you will not only find jams and ketchups together; but also find them closer to the rack that carries bakery products. The placing of complementary products close to each other (product adjacencies); and the number of pieces of each size that you see on the shelves, are all scientifically arrived at.

Not only do you see merchandise neatly arranged on open shelves that let you "touch and feel" the products, but the shelves also supply additional information about the product - the brand; its size and price on the label on the edge of the shelves - ('shelf-talkers' for the jargon lovers). These are critical touch-points that make shopping convenient.

And it is also no accident that the biscuits, jams; ketchups etc are placed distinctly away from the soaps and shampoos. Supermarkets don't mix 'foods' with 'non-foods'.

Nowhere else is Visual Merchandising (VM) used to the hilt than in apparel retail. How many times have you walked into a store impulsively and walked away with shirts and trousers (or should I say sarees?) that are displayed in show-windows?

VM takes a new dimension in furniture retailing. Have you noticed how bedroom sets are sold from real bed-room like settings in furniture stores such as 'Home Centre'? Similarly, the dining room sets and living room sets are all displayed in real-life settings.

The next time you go shopping, you may find it interesting to observe these little details that are actually all planned to the last dot. "Retail is Detail"- and modern retailers are caught between having to offer you a wide assortment of merchandise in the most pleasing of environments and yet having to utilise precious real-estate space efficiently.

For those interested in pursuing VM as a career:

The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in the US offers bachelor's degree in Visual Communications.
The National Institute of Design at Ahmedabad also offers a suitable course. For details visit: study_pg_dre.htm

Retail Store Formats

Different store formats aid differing shopping needs. A look at what they constitute....

Many corporate players have tried establishing 'convenience' or 'express' format stores that mirror the advantages of kiranas. Such stores carry limited product ranges stocking only the barest minimum offerings. To illustrate with a common example; a convenience store may carry just three brands of popular toothpaste in merely one or two sizes each - eg: a 50gm and 100gm packs. 'Spencer's express' and 'Trinethra's Quickshop' were examples of this format. '7 Eleven' is a hugely popular chain of corporate-run convenience stores in the US and many parts of the world.

Supermarkets are the big brothers of convenience stores. Extending the toothpaste example, supermarkets carry most(but not all) brands in all categories of merchandise, offering wider pack size options. They cater to food and grocery and household needs in well maintained, hygienic settings, offering a touch-and-feel advantage as their products are displayed in open racks. They are serviced by uniformed and trained attendants. They are either individual or family managed; single-store entities or are large chains owned by corporate houses and managed by professional managers. They frequently offer attractive discounts and run promotions that give consumers a price advantage. One can easily save between 3% and 5% on their usual monthly household purchases. 'Convenience stores' and 'Supermarkets' are for your daily stop-gap or 'top-up' purchases or for life's little emergencies!

If you are looking for wide range; multiple brand options; great value and huge savings - popularly known as "Value for money" - in food and grocery; household needs or apparel or just about anything that you need - then, a Hypermarket is your right destination. Indian hypermarkets at 40,000 or 50,000 sft (a third in size of their international counterparts) offer exhaustive variety and discounts throughout the year. They not only sell most products below the prescribed price (MRP-Maximum Retail Price) but also offer attractive promotions such as 'Buy One Get One Free' or added freebies on everyday products. In the toothpaste example, a hypermarket will not only carry all the innumerable brands of toothpastes in all possible sizes; but will also sell most of them below MRP. And you don't have to feel lucky to have got a bottle of jam free for buying two tubes of your favourite toothpaste!

Due to their large sizes, Hypermarkets are usually located at basements of malls or on outskirts of a city where real estate is relatively cheaper. 'Big Bazaar' is a home grown version of Hypermarkets in India. Wal-mart; Carrefour and Tesco are some of the large international chains of Hypermarkets with billions of dollars in turnover and employing several lakhs of staff. Hypermarkets are ideal shopping destinations for your family's monthly requirement or bulk buying needs.

Convenience stores, Supermarkets and Hypermarkets are predominantly food and grocery driven businesses. Hypermarkets also carry 'value for money' apparel that are either popular brands or exclusively manufactured for the stores, called 'store brands' or 'private labels'.

If you are looking for fashion or lifestyle determining accessories; you may do good to shop at either single brand stores - (EBO) or exclusive brand outlets such as such as 'Bata'; 'Peter England' or 'Arrow' or Multi-brand outlets (MBOs). EBOs are typically located either within malls or in standalone buildings on main streets in metros and towns. They usually carry the entire range of products manufactured by a particular brand. They are peopled by knowledgeable and trained staff that act as consultants, offering you tips and advice on matching clothes or accessories. They sell their products at full prices (at MRP) unless they are clearing their seasonal merchandise through a sale. MBOs are different only in that they carry more than one brand of products, such as 'Pantaloon' or 'Globus'.

Department stores (derive their name from the different departments within a single store carrying different categories of products such as clothing for men, women and children). Department stores are apparel-heavy and offer a wide assortment of brands and labels to meet the needs of an entire family. They also carry a sizeable variety of personal accessories such as belts, wallets, scarves and other lifestyle or beauty enhancing products such as cosmetics, perfumes, watches, jewellery, etc. They are situated either in malls or as independent entities on main streets and are fairly large in size (upwards of 15,000 sft) and employ hundreds of well trained, knowledgeable staff. They offer a seamless shopping experience between the different departments, with heightened visual cues in glitzy, air-conditioned stores, using attractive display of products on mannequins and in show-windows. 'Shopper's Stop'; 'Lifestyle' and 'Westside' are some of the popular chains of department stores. Sears, JC Penny and Nordstrom are some of the international chains of department stores.

Specialty stores carry complementary categories of merchandise and accessories. Thus, we have home improvement formats such as 'Home Centre' or 'Home Stop' that carry hard furniture for bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms; soft furnishings; cutlery and crockery; lighting, carpets, art and other home decor accessories - all of which are complementary in nature.

Malls - a new but ubiquitous breed of shopping options in India - are a collection of several retailers in huge, covered premises with ample parking for cars and also offering leisure and entertainment options such as food courts; gaming zones and multiplexes. They are the evolved cousins of the 'shopping complexes' of yesteryears. Malls are meant to serve as 'Shopping Destinations' for the entire family. They house a wide assortment of retailers such as supermarkets and hypermarkets; EBOs and Department Stores. The novelty of malls in India, with their wide open walkways and attractive stores; along with food and entertainment options are increasingly becoming picnic spots drawing thousands of visitors every day.