How Shoppers Stop is acing the retail game against younger rivals

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on March 03, 2020 Published on March 03, 2020

The company has revamped its store model and leveraged technology to forge ahead with its expansion plan

Shoppers Stop Ltd (SSL) will continue to invest in its expansion plans even amid macro headwinds, according to a top executive. The retail chain is rejigging its store model, tying up with food and beverage (F&B) companies and using modern technology to stay ahead of the curve.

SSL’s Customer Care Associate, MD & CEO Rajiv Suri said the company is betting big on a wholesome customer experience at all its fashion, beauty and bookstore outlets despite the challenges.

“The macro headwinds are sort of continuing in one form or the other. However, we are very confident about the India story and that’s why we will continue to invest,” Suri told BusinessLine on the sidelines of the Retail Leadership Summit.

Shoppers Stop, owned by K Raheja Corp, runs fashion chain Shoppers Stop, bookstore chain Crosswords and luxury beauty store Arcelia, among others. Together, it operates over 300 stores in 50 cities across India.

The company had earlier announced it would spend nearly ₹200 crore on capex. It is now entirely debt-free and, hence, focussing on expansion made sense for the company, said Suri.

“Now that we have our product and premiumisation strategy and our new-generation stores, we believe it’s a good opportunity to expand. This year, we will open at 50 new locations, and we will have 12 department stores.”

Despite the challenges, being the country’s oldest department store gives it an edge in terms of experience in the retail industry, which has helped it stay relevant in the modern times, he added.

Customer experience and personalisation

Shoppers Stop had earlier said it would spend ₹30 crore on digital investments. While the company spent most of it in upgrading its internal systems and omni-channel systems, it has also invested in virtual trial rooms.

This technology will reduce the hassle of waiting outside a trial room on busy days, said Suri. “We are working with two start-ups. We cannot talk about it much right now but we will be up with it in three or four months. We may even take the IP for one of them,” he added.

While announcing its Q3 results, Shoppers Stop had reported that its ‘First Citizen’ loyalty programme’ contributed 84 per cent of its revenues, up 5 per cent from the previous-year period.

As part of its revamp plan, the company has decided to relaunch the loyalty programme with more benefits.

Several retail chains such as FabIndia have entered the F&B segment. Asked if Shoppers Stop would follow suit, Suri said: “We’re very focussed on the fashion and beauty segment and F&B isn’t our expertise. Nonetheless, we have tied up with Starbucks for our store in Gurugram and we may soon escalate this collaboration to other stores that fit the bill.”

About 18 months ago, Shoppers Stop began to offer a ‘personal shopper’ service at its stores, which is apparently working very well for it. It “currently contributes 14 per cent of our sales”, said Suri.

Revamping Crosswords

With the emergence of digital books and audiobooks, several bookstores have been forced to shut shop. The Shoppers Stop umbrella owns over 80 Crosswords outlets.

Although the growth has been stagnant, the good news is that physical books are making a comeback, observed Suri. “Indian parents still like their children to read and are spending time in bookstores again,” he said.

Crosswords is going to design new store concepts to cater to the needs of its young customers. “We now see and understand where the growth will come from, and that’s children,” said Suri, adding that kids will now be at the centre of its strategy.

The Crosswords team has come up with a three-year strategy, and the next step is expansion, he added.

Published on March 03, 2020

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