Friday, October 28, 2011

Selling, Upselling and Unselling

Despite my request thrice, the staff of India’s first class airline forgot to sell me sandwiches and muffin, my first and most important meal of the day – Breakfast, while I was flying from Bangalore to Delhi (on work) last week. My first request was placed around 25 minutes after take-off, and I waved at her two times thereafter, but to my dismay and surprise, she seemed to have forgotten till the flight landed… And it was a 2.5 hour flight! Was it pure negligence or arrogance or forgetfulness – I don’t know, but for sure, a lost opportunity. What I may, if allowed can call “unselling”. In our (Retail) business, a lost consumption opportunity can never be recovered. After all, a breakfast meal (to the same person) cannot be served for lunch or dinner! On a quick calculation, I was stunned to note the business opportunity of selling on board – if, for example, an airline flies 100 flights a day, with an average of 100 pax per flight, and a 25% conversion @ Rs. 120 per person, it amounts to Rs. 3 lakhs per day or Rs. 100 crore per annum in topline! Well – that’s the potential opportunity and it all depends on how best the airline staff are able to sell. However, what the airline then needs are not air hosts and hostesses but air- salesmen and saleswomen! but why not? The airlines haven’t yet spotted this as an important opportunity (I Guess so, lest she would have sold my muffin!) and I am sure this is one market that F&B players cannot and shouldn’t miss. With minimum dwell time at airports (time spent between security checks and boarding), and with a healthy >25% conversion of pax at F&B outlets across Indian airport terminals, I wonder why this opportunity cannot be real. It is, indeed.

(Suggested Reading: Travel Retail and Luxury Retail at Airports)

Over the last weekend, India’s most consumed newspaper Times of India carried 20-30 page supplements across all major cities, most of which were advertisements by Retailers and Brands wooing shoppers to choose their respective locations and products while shopping this Diwali. Prominent advertisers included large retailers such as The Future Group (Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Central Malls, EZone, Home Town), Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Croma, Reliance Retail, etc. What was interesting was most Retailers were promoting “bill value” based promotions – a clear tactic to entice shoppers to spend a little extra – what we popularly call as “Upselling”. This could be on and off the ground – while advertisements promote the idea, it is the sales’ staff who finally “close the sale’ and hence are the messengers by the Retailers to convince shoppers to spend more. Unsurprisingly, sales grew between 25% – 45% across various Retail stores. Electronics and Furniture took centre stage this time (specifically for promotions) while apparel and accessories including Jewellery, Watches, etc. were assumed to be sure-shot purchases for the festive season.

(Suggested Reading: Consumer Driven)

Upselling is an art, taught and trained to Retail staff right from the time they join in their roles and all through their career. It’s a bit like negotiation, pushing customers to buy more. While this is expected of every staff towards every customer who walks into the store, it is emphasized especially during festive times to increase the bill values – the amount spent by a customer on his / her shopping bill.

 

Gift Vouchers

While “gifts” of a certain perceived value are given away if the customer achieves a certain amount of bill, other tactics have also been used over time – gift vouchers being the most common one. The advantage with gift vouchers is that the shopper has to return back to the store once again and encash it or utilize the voucher for part-payment and that too, within a certain time frame. The average amount spent over and above the value of Gift Vouchers ranges between 20-35% and goes up to 70% in some cases. They are also transferable, and can hence be passed on to loved ones. This festive season, Reliance Trends is providing coupons worth Rs. 3,000 for a shopping value of the same amount.

(Suggested Reading: Gift Vouchers)

By-Products

This is a smart tactic used, especially in the Electronics business. While a battery charger and headphones are in-built with the original packaging (in most cases), the retailer or the brand could throw in an additional accessory, say a screen guard or a Bluetooth ™ headset along with a mobile phone! Instead of providing a cheap one, Samsung upsells with a Samsung Bluetooth™ headset for just Rs. 500 (MRP Rs. 899) at select retail stores including at Ezone and 50% off on other accessories for its Galaxy Tablet. Great way to engage shoppers to spend more!

Buy One Get One

An age-old tactic to upsell, this is the most common (yet boring) phenomenon one can find. Giordano offers another wrist watch when you buy one! Works well for couples who want a new one for themselves but the designs may be limited. However, it also works as a worthy gift. Last year, I bought an Esprit ladies watch as a gift and I got myself a fabric-strap sporty watch from Puma which I use while cycling. Needless to say, one can always find utilities how to use the free product.

Scratch and win!

Some Retailers offer a promotion scheme where every shopper who attains a certain bill value gets to scratch a card (or crush a fortune cookie) and wins a gift as mentioned in it. The gifts may range from gift vouchers to small home utensils to accessories or even a motor bike or a car or a house! The excitement in this case is pretty high, with each shopper hoping to win something big. Atleast, there is no disappointment that one didn’t get the big fish! SPAR, world’s largest F&B Retailer is offering a similar proposition to enable more shoppers to buy more!

(Suggested Reading: National Shopping Day!)

Shop and win!

Central Malls, India’s largest Mall chain is offering a Toyota Etios (car) and a Harley Davidson (Motorbike) to be won when you shop and participate in a lucky draw! By far, the most exciting, tried-and-tested promotion globally to attract shoppers. An average middle class shopper, irrespective of whether he / she owns a car or a bike (no matter how many) wouldn’t decline an offer to own one more, especially if it is free of cost. The only catch – the winner has to pay road taxes and insurance, which may cost a few thousands. However, this sort of promotion, a raffle to say is among the ones that excite shoppers the most. Airports worldwide, including Singapore, Dubai, Heathrow, Frankfurt etc., offer luxury and high-end cars to be won for a few bucks that is spent at their airport shops. No matter, what – people buy! And buy more, and in this case, upselling just works.

(Also Read: Central Realigns the City!)

Diwali is gone, but the offers are still on! Festivals would come and go buy upselling continues. Retailers must spend a lot of time encouraging their staff to upsell, rather to talk to potential customers, to begin with. These days, many shop assistants feel they are paid to stand (there are well-dressed mannequins already) and usually talk with each other but move to a corner when a shopper walks by. Store Managers would do well for themselves if they lead by example. I have done so, many years back encouraging shoppers to buy bread when they come to buy their morning milk, to try a new range of ketchup when they are looking for noodles at Foodworld.

It’s possible. Just needs a bit of push. By each of us! Happy Selling… errr… Upselling…

Friday, October 14, 2011

Airports, A/c and Retail Opportunities

 

I came across an article recently on Times of India according to which Airports Authority of India (AAI) plans to turn-off air-conditioning in certain parts of the airports to reduce its expenses. “Our model for low-cost airports is based on a good low-cost carrier where people will get good, cost-efficient services. AC is the single biggest cost factor in airports. We are examining models to cut down the need for air-conditioning in the tier III airports that will come up,” said a senior official of AAI. Hubli in Karnataka will prove to be the first test case for this new phenomenon. The AAI is building an airport in Hubli for which the terminal cost has been pegged at Rs 60 crore (USD 13 Million). “We are going to further reduce this cost by shunning the fancy and shining tiles used for flooring and are looking at more areas for economy without compromising the efficiency and comfort level for flyers,” said sources. There is an increasing clamour among airlines, many of whom are struggling to survive and unable to pay hefty fees that the fancy new airports levy. Their logic: have economic airports with low charges so that flying remains affordable as high charges for ‘Taj Mahal’ kind of airports would have to be recovered in the form of higher fares from passengers.

(Suggested Reading: Airline guidelines – a boon to Retailers)

Another recent article in The Economic Times illustrates the financial performance of GMR Airports, the company that has built and manages two of the top 6 airports in India at Delhi and Hyderabad. Incidentally, Hyderabad Airport is the Number 1 among its peers according to the latest ACI Survey which grades airports across the world on passenger amenities and services. And yes, GMR neither switches off nor plans to switch of A/c. Their opportunity – non-Aeronautical Revenues which includes Retail and F&B options at the airport premises. World over, non-Aeronautical revenues account 30-50% of an airport’s revenues. Of this, Retail/F&B contributes significantly, over 70% in some cases closely followed by “Car Parking Revenues”.

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In India, the focus on Non-Aero income has hardly been given importance by AAI, the erstwhile operator of the top airports in India (located at Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad which are now privatised). In the year 2006, Airport privatisation was formally passed on a Private-Public Partnership model (PPP) and Delhi, Mumbai airports were handed over by AAI to two private parties, viz., GMR and GVK to modernize the respective airports. While Mumbai is half-done (not sure which half), Delhi has a swanky new terminal, more popularly known as T3, built at a cost of over USD 2.5 billion. Over 100,000 sft of space is dedicated to Retail, F&B and other commercial areas and also boasts the largest car parking facility in town! (while compared to any other Mall or Shopping Centre). Hyderabad and Bangalore had their own greenfield (built from scratch) airports led by GMR and Zurich airports’ consortium in the year 2008.

(Also read: Privatisation of airports)

Instead of switching off A/c or using inferior quality of flooring and other amenities, AAI should rather focus more on the commercial opportunities. AAI follows the “Competitive Tender” model where the bidder with the highest bid amount qualifies to operate the said commercial locations. Needless to say, most of the branded players shun from such tenders due to inconsistency of participation. For example, a branded pizza chain cannot sell beyond their range, so does a branded formal wear Retailer! Most of the spaces that are tendered out are between 8-20 sqm (about 90 – 220 sft) for a snack bar or even a specialised category apparel / accessories store or a book store! It’s not only a business challenge to run a retail establishment within such a small area – but it doesn’t provide a good retail experience as well. This is a fundamental philosophy-flaw of AAI that needs to change. Change NOW.

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If done properly, AAI can expect to garner reasonably good revenues from Non-Aero revenues. Chennai and Kolkata Airports which are being modernised by the AAI themselves will be a litmus test for Retailers. These airports are as large or larger than Bangalore & Hyderabad and the customer (Read: Passenger) is the same who is spending time and money at Delhi, Mumbai and other International airports. So, the intent to spend / opportunity to serve is already huge. With the burgeoning spends in Organized Retail even in tier II and tier III cities growing by over 35% year on year, it is no surprise that passengers in smaller airports / cities would spend on good quality products and services. HMSHost, a leading player in the F&B space at airports worldwide is now the largest player across Indian airports with significant presence at Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and more recently at AAI managed airports at Chandigarh and Lucknow. Cafe Coffee Day, India’s largest cafe chain operates over 25 locations across various airports in India.

(Also Read: A lot happened over coffee!)

So now, its up to AAI how they would want to capture the wallet-spends of its passengers! As a regular user of airports, I wouldn’t mind lesser space at the terminals (as a passenger, my dwell time is no more than 45 minutes and I am not going to play football anyway), rather prefer a comfortable environment – reasonably well maintained terminals and hygienic toilets included.

Hope – the most important word in our lives. I hope things will change. Even with AAI. Let’s see.

Ashta Mudras

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Malls are also parking lots!

I recently came across an article which claims that Bangalore is the most painful place when it comes to commuting and parking of vehicles! My suggestion – is to build more Malls.

IBM Global Commuter Pain survey

A new IBM survey of the daily commute in a cross-section of some of the most economically important international cities reveals a startling dichotomy: while the commute has become a lot more bearable over the past year, drivers’ complaints are going through the roof. The annual global Commuter Pain Survey, which IBM released recently, reveals that in a number of cities more people are taking public transportation rather than driving, when compared with last year’s survey. In many cities, there were big jumps in the percentage of respondents who said that roadway traffic has improved either “somewhat” or “substantially” in the past three years.

IBM Commuter Pain Index

To better understand consumer attitudes around traffic congestion as the issue continues to grow around the world, IBM conducted the 2011 Commuter Pain survey. The IBM Commuter Pain Index, illustrated in this speedometer graphic, ranks the emotional and economic toll of commuting in 20 international cities. From right to left, cities are plotted from least painful starting with Montreal and gradually increase to the most painful city, Mexico City. But that’s only part of the story. In many cities, the survey recorded significant increases, when compared with last year, in the number of respondents who said that roadway traffic has increased their levels of personal stress and anger and negatively affected their performance at work or school.  “Commuting doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” said Naveen Lamba, IBM’s global intelligent transportation expert. “A person’s emotional response to the daily commute is colored by many factors – pertaining both to traffic congestion as well as to other, unrelated, issues. This year’s Global Commuter Pain survey indicates that drivers in cities around the world are much more unsettled and anxious compared with 2010.” 

According a report recently in Times of India, around 1,300 vehicles are fined everyday for illegal parking. And this is just the official number. I would assume for every ticket that is issued, atleast 5 are not! So, we can guess the number of illegal / wrong parking. Whose fault is it – to provide adequate parking spaces in a city like Bangalore, to ensure ample public transport is provided? And as users, as commuters, aren’t we as public responsible too? Well, there are no straight answers. In a growing urban metropolitan city like Bangalore, this is bound to happen. With the price of automobiles going down each year (and despite the rising petrol costs), more people are opting for personal transportation options, both for official as well as personal usage. And I wonder what relief a 3km Metro rail will bring in the short-term and even if a fifth of the city is connected, am not sure how useful it is going to be!

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However, there is a simple solution through public-private partnership that can significantly reduce the pain-points – build more public car parking spaces which would also double up as Retail Destinations! Call them Malls, Shopping Centres, whatever. And we already have a great example in Garuda Mall. The land belongs to the city Corporation, the structure built by a private party which was expected to house over 2000 cars and two-wheelers. And also have some shops which would provide the revenues to maintain and manage the parking lot. And we know the result – a swanky mall with 100s of shops and restaurants including some big names such as Shoppers Stop, Westside, Louis Philippe, Benetton, etc. a full-blown food court and a six screen INOX Multiplex! Avid shoppers wait patiently outside just to just enter the mall over the weekends! Movie-goers reach the Mall 20-30 minutes before the cinema commences to ensure they watch the film from the beginning. A similar example is Mantri Mall at Malleswaram in South Bangalore

Bangalore, overall has only 10 notable Malls for a city that has a population of over 8 million people (as per the recent census). By any means, this is just not enough. World cities like New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and even Shanghai and Beijing have a reasonably more number of Malls. And many other Retail destinations such as Hypermarkets, Neighbourhood Malls, etc. These locations, typically act as public parking spots for a particular locality during the day (since serious shoppers typically prefer late evenings or weekends). In a way, higher retail proliferation also means additional space on offer, which makes the market more competitive, such that builders and developers or Mall Management companies do not charge the Retailers exorbitantly, which in turn affects the number of stores a Retailer or a Brand operates in that market. This can be seen vividly in markets like China close by and in the US, needless to say. For example, every locality would have a Wal-Mart with hundreds of car parking lots – and it is not just for shoppers, but also for those who have work in the vicinity.  The expectation is that those who didn’t have any work in the mall may also just pop-in. And it happens many times. 

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Infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges India is facing, and Retail Infrastructure is no better. Coupled to that, we as a society are averse to walking – which is very common to see in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Europe and other countries. They say, that cafes and QSRs do not have parking lots (worldwide) because customers prefer to walk a bit. But not in India. Even a humble “darshini” restaurant which serves local fare would see a dozen two-wheelers parked outside its shop, mostly in a “No-Parking” area. Most of us, in the name of saving time prefer not to walk even a bit. And people also blame it on pollution, lack of pavements or walking tracks and so on.

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Bangalore will see two new retail developments open its doors within the next six months. Each of them have a million square feet of Retail, F&B and Entertainment. And a couple of smaller developments are in various stages too. Together, at the moment around 5,000 cars and two-wheelers can be parked in our Malls but this expected to simply double with the new developments coming in. I assure, the next time I have to visit a place I will atleast attempt to look for a nearby mall. What about you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dasera – Diwali Dhamaka for Retailers

A former colleague of mine, a Swiss gentleman once quipped that everyday in India is a festival day! Well, he was right in a way, maybe not quite literally though. With so many religions and diverse cultures, indeed every day may have some form of festival in India…

This October month is one of those rare ones – that benefit Grocery Retailers, typically supermarket and hypermarket chains like Food Bazaar, Reliance, Spencer's, More, SPAR, EasyDay and others. Navaratri / Dasera, which commenced on 27th Sep continues into the first week of October and Diwali will be celebrated during the last week of the month. Typically, the monthly Grocery shopping happens once a month, usually in the last week of the month gone by or during the first week of the current month. But in this case, families would have to shop twice, and probably more quantities than usual – roughly 1.5 to 2 times the average quantities. Navaratri is celebrated in different forms and signify different things for people across the country. in Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka, families set-up dolls at home – popularly known as the “Kolu”. During this period, Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are prayed and celebrated three days each. Every evening, women folk and children visit houses of neighbours and are fed with “sundal” – the nine grains, one each every day. Now – this category is shopped for extensively before the festival commences which may not be consumed so much otherwise through the year. Also, the visitors are gifted small household articles usually made of plastic and this category also sees an increase in sales during the period. Fruits, which are distributed benevolently, see a surge in price and hence consumers prefer shopping at Supermarkets and Hypermarkets for a better bargain.

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In Gujarat and West Bengal, it is more a societal occasion. While Hindus celebrate it the most, people across all walks of life join into the celebrations. While “Dandiya” – an art form of dance is the most happening one in Gujarat, the Bengalis install huge “Pandals” which showcase Goddess Durga in different forms. People visit Pandals day and night and wear new clothes (in Bengal) while late evening Dandiya sessions are regular during the week. And obviously, new clothes are something that every one looks forward to! Even Western / Foreign brands (like Benetton seen below) join in the festivities by promoting themselves during this period.

Just around the corner is Diwali – the festival of lights and the biggest grosser for Retailers across categories. This festival is also celebrated in its unique way across the country. While families shop for Electronics and Gadgets, Home Furniture, Clothing and Accessories, sweets for distribution and consumption is a big hit too. Retailers and Brands have already started advertising for the ensuing Diwali as well and is expected to step up their promotions starting this weekend.

If there is one category that sees a low, it’s liquor and alcoholic beverages. People generally refrain from visiting bars / consuming such beverages due to the ensuing festivities but things are indeed changing. And hopefully, this category will support Retailers in November which is expected to be one of the lowest months  for business since there are not major festivals (duh) until the Christmas season commences. Anyway, wishing each one of you Seasons’ Greetings and of course, Happy Shopping!

Been there, Seen that...