Grocery shops or the Kirana Stores at the market place and in lanes and by-lanes have always been the convenient stores for the consumers to buy food and household items. Growing up in South Kolkata, for me Lake Market has always been the one stop shop for buying everything from atta, dal, rice to vegetables, fish and anything under the sun that the household required. The grocery stores inside and outside the market were always well stocked and there was no question of going elsewhere.
Then came the shark – the organised Retailer
The happy state of business for the Kirana stores came under a huge threat once modernisation started happening.
The entire old market was brought down and a Mall was built in its place. The old shops were allocated space on the ground floor as per their original holdings. Till this point there was no problem.
Their hard times started when an organised Retail chain opened a store on the first floor with rows and rows of branded stocks of atta, dal, rice, spices, biscuits, snacks, health drinks etc etc; all the stuff the Kirana stores inside and outside the market had been selling.
What followed was a shift of customer loyalty from the ground floor Kirana stores to the branded retailer’s supermarket.
The spacious store above, with cool air conditioning and huge discounts, turned out to be a big attraction for the consumers and the Kirana stores started looking deserted. The vegetable and fish market however were not affected as the supermarket was not selling these items.
Kirana Stores – To be or not to be
I have always liked to buy my household items by going around the shops even in this era of Malls and online shopping. It became even more interesting since it gave me an opportunity to study the changes and adaptations that people do in business in the changing market scenario.
Soon after the supermarket hit them, the Kirana stores felt the urge to change and it was a race for the survival of the fittest. They realised that all was not lost as customers still entered the ground floor area of the market, as they had to buy vegetable, fruits, fish and meat; And they could still draw their attention.
Pretty soon the crowds started coming back to these stores and I could see the stores back in full action.
The Kirana Makeover and Turnaround
The Kirana stores definitely had done some homework, which was visible in changes they brought in. Some of the changes I could clearly see were-
- The Kiranas started offering pre packed groceries in different weights to compete with the supermarket.
- Shelves got a make over and re-positioned to face outwards, so that consumers could see the goods better.
- Daily discounts and package deal offers started coming up.
- The Kirana employees started wearing t-shirts with the shop’s phone number printed.
And the Kirana stores went a few steps further to have an edge over the Giant
- They took orders on the phone and delivered at the doorstep
- For walk in customers they sent their boys to carry the bags up to the car parking
- They ensured there was minimal queues at check out and used as many hands as they could afford
- They greeted customers as they passed by and called out to say that the product they were looking for had arrived
Gone were those days when the Kirana store’s owner sat in a corner and ordered the boys in the shop to attend to the customer.
Now it was all about brisk service, keeping track of customer’s choices through previous purchases, door delivery and all that would make the customer return to the shop again and again.
Added to all that is their new found ability to accept electronic payments by cards or wallets.
Thus, thanks to the Organised Retail, the small shops have got more organised. The realisation has dawned on them that a customer is loyal only till such time that she has not been given a better and improved choice.
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