Shop till you drop: Retailers open stores early, close late to boost sales

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: From opening stores at 7 in the morning to shutting down well after midnight, several big retailers now work overtime to increase their sales amidst weakening consumer sentiment by wooing joggers and night owls.

Reliance Retail, for instance, has advanced opening timing for some of its supermarkets in Maharashtra by two hours to 8 am to attract joggers and office goers, while Future Group’s KB Fair Price stores open even earlier at 7.

“We are already seeing good sales in the live bakery section as many consumers have started having daily breakfast at our stores after their morning walk,” said a senior Reliance Retail official who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to media.

It’s not just joggers who shop in the morning. Consumers prefer fresh stock especially for fruits and vegetables segment. Damodar Mall, director for food strategy at Future Group, says KB Fair Price sells almost 40% of fresh produce by 10 am, its earlier opening time. “Many residents shop for fresh produce first thing in the morning,” Mall said.

Industry watchers say the change in store timings shows that retailers now recognise the heterogeneity among consumers.

“The idea is to understand what the ‘primetime’ during the day and during the week is for various segments of shoppers even as retailers synchronize themselves with their existing buying cycles for various categories,” Adrian Terron, executive director, retail and shopper practice, at Nielsen India. “As a strategy it helps draw new footfalls and cater to niche segments,” he said.

Retailers Association of India, a lobby group of branded stores, has requested several state governments to allow modern retailers to open stores 365 days without the hassle of renewing such licences on an annual basis. The group has so far petitioned 15 different states including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh implemented it in June.

Indian retailers seem to be taking a cue from global counterparts. World’s largest retailer Walmart Stores Inc opens its outlets in the US as early as 6 am. In fact, several shops in the West remain open 24 hours a day.

In India too, global retailers open their stores early albeit they sell their wares to resellers and not end consumers. Bharti-Walmart’s Best Price Modern Wholesale stores and France’s Carrefour SA open their stores at 7.00 am while some Metro Cash and Carry stores open at 6 in the morning.

But extended shop timing means higher costs-something several retailers want to check at a time when there is slowdown in consumer demand.

“If we open our stores early, there is a substantial cost involved in terms of manpower and electricity,” a senior official at Aditya Birla Retail said on condition of anonymity. “We feel that the profit we could earn during the extra hours will not offset our costs,” the person added.

Some retailers open stores for longer hours only on days when higher sales are almost guaranteed. In February, Korum Mall at Thane near Mumbai kept its mall open until mid-night for two nights in a bid to cash-in on Valentine Day celebrations. Other days, it closes at 9:30 pm.

Buoyed by the response, the mall again kept it open until 12:00 am on the eve of the Independence Day as retailers chipped in with flat 50% off between 10:00 p.m. and mid-night, dubbed as happy hours. Gaurav Kumawat, retail manager at Korum Mall, said sales that night was 350% more than normal weekdays.

In Delhi, Select Citywalk mall at Saket has requested cafes, restaurants and the food court operators to open at 8 am in the morning to serve breakfast for people visiting the gym in the mall and other office goers. R City Mall in Mumbai too plans to open its doors early and invite residents in the vicinity to use the mall for morning walks. Coffee shops will open early for joggers to have snacks and breakfast.

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