While agreeing that retail businesses across India will take a considerable time to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, some members of the Retailers Association of India (RAI) suggest finding new opportunities and staying positive. A webinar organised by the association showcased the pandemic in a new light—a crisis that has presented several opportunities for the trading community, irrespective of their scale or category.
This opportunity could simply mean a line extension, trying out a different line of business or a different way of working. Opportunity could also be in the form of new collaborations and partnerships. It is also an opportunity readjust the focus on consumers, getting to know them better.
“Retailers will have to be extremely alert to the situation while being sensitive towards the consumer. Relationships are going to be key to the survival of all businesses. Everyone in the ecosystem must co-operate,” said Sandeep Kataria, MD, Bata India. On the learning and opportunity that the crisis has presented to Bata, Kataria shared “We are now exploring home delivery of footwear; we haven’t done it before and developing our online capabilities.”
As consumers will still be hesitant to go out in crowded places to shop, retailers will do well to use this time to develop omni-channel capabilities.
“Retailers now must make use of the omnichannel format to boost their business as that is going to be the new normal. Customers would expect better service, quick home delivery and sensitivity towards their choices and tastes. Retailers have to be innovative and open minded going forward,” said Ravinder Gupta, CEO, Chhappan Bhog.
To be able to able to make the most of this crisis, Bhagirath Jalan, MD, Jalan’s Retail felt retailers should free themselves from the restrictions of categories and be flexible. According to him, this is a particularly a good time for small retailers. “The COVID-19 crisis is good for the 500 sq. ft. essential goods retailer. More consumers are frequenting these stores because of trust,” he said. He felt that more retailers should focus on building capabilities that inspire trust.
Agreeing with him, Lalit Agarwal, MD, V-Mart Retail Ltd., said, “A brand’s ability to evoke trust is going to be the key differentiator going forward,” adding that the consumer is learning to live with less and businesses will have to do the same.
The participants acknowledged that businesses now need to change the way they look at competition, online and new technologies. Summing up the discussion, moderator BS Nagesh, Chairman – RAI; Founder – TRRAIN said, “It is going to be about 3Cs: We have to co-operate, collaborate and communicate to create a win-win situation.”
Consumers in a post-COVID-19 world
·Buying is expected to become self-centric
·Consumers will shift from ‘good-to’ buy to ‘must-to’ buy
·Family shopping is expected to become a trend as priorities shift to infant & children products, comfort wear, food and essentials
For Retailers in a post-COVID-19 world
·Conserve cash, ensure your employees safety, win consumers over.
·It’s important to get rid of redundant business operation habits to become leaner and more efficient.
·Now is not a time to experiment. Businesses must focus on strengthening their core and collaborate to minimise risk in case they want to try something new.
·Synergies with the community and government are key factors in winning consumer trust
·Develop omni-channel capabilities. The next-generation of tech-savvy retailers will play a key role in transitioning the sector to an omni-channel play.
·Focus on sustainable growth. This is a great opportunity for Indian retail to align itself to the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
·Draw a 3- to 5-year business plan, make investments and scale.