Large-format retail may have some surprises to face when it comes to shoppers’ loyalties.

As soon as news of the Government’s change of heart over FDI in retail came in, everyone — from the CXOs to the retail consultant, to the delivery boy at the neighbourhood grocery store — had a view. Not to forget the politicians of all hues who had their own ‘takes’. Everyone assumed that the LFRs will come and take over the market completely, rendering the small store(s) insignificant.

Regular readers would recall that shopping for the 14–34 year-old cool folk is not purely functional. They demand choices and want to enjoy the multiplicity of options — for a large chunk, shopping is akin to a voyage or expedition. A respondents summed it up by stating that if shopping provided no thrills, she would rather stay in and shop online.

With about one-fourth of our respondents mentioning shopping as a compulsive indulgence, the cool folk appear to be free-floating ducks for smart retailers who have the wherewithal to make shopping inspiring and smart. Now, let us revisit another probe on price. We discovered it is not price but ‘affordability’ that comes into play while deciding what to buy. Affordability is a decision. That it is the ‘need to own’ that makes a product affordable irrespective of the price was a departure from long-held beliefs, and made pricing subservient to brand value and appeal.

Our outing this time complemented all of this. Almost a third (32 per cent) of our respondents believed that as long as they see value and the experience is great, the size of the outlet or the format would not matter. An almost equal number (29 per cent) stated they would prefer going to a speciality store that’s friendlier, and not necessarily to an LFR store. Twenty-three per cent of the respondents, however, stated categorically they would prefer an LFR outlet to a conventional one. Fifteen per cent were undecided.

We want to warn our readers that it is still early days, and this subject needs a lot more study. Almost all of our respondents have had some experience of shopping at LFRs, and the information used in our mapping was based on the respondents’ experiences with home-grown LFRs as well. Rachit, a young lawyer from Jaipur, said: “How does it matter if the LFR is home-grown or is owned by an MNC? What matters is what I get in terms of experience, range and price”. Happy cool-hunting!

Giraj Sharma is an independent brand consultant who is a compulsive cool-hunter.

(This article was published on October 4, 2012)
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