My Favourite Retailer.
Retail is detail. Retail is knowing your consumer and fulfilling their needs in an optimal manner. Retail is also ensuring repeat business from your consumer.
There is one such retailer I know and she has successfully implemented all this – with nothing but pure common sense.
Meet, Mrs. Susheela, proprietor of Venkateshwara Stores at a gated community in Bangalore.
Having seen her operate her store for over 15 years now, I have learnt probably the best lessons in retail from her.
Here’s what I learned from her:
1. Location, Location, Location : Around 15-16 years ago when the store was available for lease, two of the local store operators in the vicinity were invited to set up the store. One store was located about 50-100m from the gated community while Venkateshwara was a good 300m+ away. 2min walk vs. 5-7min walk. The proprietor of the closer store decided that customers will continue to walk the short distance and it did not make sense to pay a ‘rental’ for serving these customers within the premise. That’s how Venkateshwara store set up shop at the community. She had at one hand the hunger for growth, two she understood she had a locational disadvantage outside the community and most importantly, she perhaps foresaw what a captive customer catchment would mean for her business.
So the next time you decide to expand your business, tick a few boxes which are not there on your list and you might hit a goldmine like she did.
2. KYC : Know your customer! If you do not know your customer, you cannot merchandise right and if you do not merchandise right, you cannot sell right! And you need to read further as to how Susheela aunty abides by this mantra and keeps re-merchandising all the while.
This community sits right behind the erstwhile ITC Cigarette factory at Cox Town Bangalore (now converted to a ITC Commercial Park, the factory has shifted to Devanahalli for over a decade plus now). The original Venkateshwara Stores sat in what is still known as the ITC Workers Colony, a cluster of small homes where families of the factory workers resided. In marketing terms, a low income cluster.
When Venkateshwara stores set up shop at the community, the customer were suddenly no longer the same. Her first month she the value brands in most categories (think Wheel or Nirma vs. Surf or tide), for the young ones she had the unbranded 10p – 20p treats which most parents would have wanted to avoid and kids were of course demanding Alpenliebe!
Susheela aunty was quick to respond. Within a month her store had brands she had probably never heard of. Shelves were overnight replaced with what SEC A customers would shop. To date, she and her family (who runs the store with her), maintain a diary where they immediately jot down when a customer asks for a new brand or new product / seasonal product.
A few months later when she realised the lifestyle of us customers, I would always see the store stocking up on cold drinks, snacks and even short eats like Chicken nuggets from Friday evening onwards to meet the demand for the weekend indulgences as well as house parties. She know adjusts her stock as per the long weekend calendar too!
When a new brand of breads was launched early this year, I had requested them to stock it. Her son asked me to give the distributor no from the pack for him to procure. Within 48 hours of me doing so, he called me up to inform, “Ma’m, the bread is now available, pls do come and buy from us.” The bread was a hit for its quality and the wide range it offered. Within a week, a large bakery brand decided to threaten them to pull out the new brand else they would stop supply of all products from their range (they are one of India’s largest biscuit sellers too) but the family stood by what their customers wanted. Needless to say, the threat was an empty one and both brands are still available.
Today, every festival with its unique festive needs are met by the store. From the flours needed for a Navratri fast to Diwali décor and lamps, she has it all.
Customer centricity, something that we at Knowetic are passionate about, finds its true meaning in her approach to her merchandise and stock levels.
3. Always there for your customer : Like most other kirana stores, being there for your customer when they need you the most was put to test during the pandemic. Her family and she ensured a non-stop supply of essentials during the lockdown. They were quick to catch in the new home cooking and home baking trend with a sudden availability of cooking chocolate, cocoa, cake décor sprinkles, speciality ingredients and sauces. They have run the store for really long hours to meet the demand of the entire community of over 500 apartments.
When we see retailers like Susheela aunty, we know why India was called as the land of shopkeepers. It’s these astute retailers, with their ear to the ground and a pulse on their customer’s needs who keep the nation going. And also feed the right product to the aspiring consuming class.
Hat’s off to them.