“Today’s time-poor customers are demanding a seamless navigation across channels. We are working proactively towards delivering an omni-channel experience to the customers. A level playing field that can be created by the government through FDI policy can
Shoppers Stop is one of India’s largest retail chains of large format department stores. It is a one-stop shop across multiple categories including apparel, cosmetics, fragrances, artificial and fine jewellery, footwear, personal accessories such as watches, sunglasses, handbags, wallets and belts, kidswear, toys, home decor and much more. Shoppers Stop began its operations in 1991 and the first store was converted from a theatre; in the first year 5,000 sq ft of retail area was developed, which grew up to 52,000 sq ft over the next five years. Since its inception, Shoppers Stop revolutionised the shopping experience for the customer, offering an array of brands under one roof. Over the years, Shoppers Stop has made many breakthroughs in the Indian retail industry, enabling it to become one of the most customer-centric, respected and profitable retailers in the country. A number of new brands have been launched in Shoppers Stop, e.g. Gili, Indian Terrain, US Polo, Gini and Jony. Shoppers Stop offers its customers as experience of more than 400 international and national brands across categories. Today, Shoppers Stop has 81 stores spread across 37 cities in India. Where physical stores are not present, Shoppers Stop caters to millions of customers across the length and breadth of the country through its newly revamped online store. Moreover, with the recent launch of the Shoppers Stop mobile app, on IOS and Android, the company continues to innovate by creating a convenient and more personalised way to shop. It is the only Indian member of the International Group of Department Stores (IGDS) along with 29 other experienced retailers from all over the world.
Shoppers Stop has been always ahead of its time and has been a pioneer in many different ways, be it launching a customer loyalty programme, calling their associates as customer care associates, or their professional approach to retailing or starting the preview of sales. They were one of the first few retailers to adopt Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in the year 1999. It was a huge investment and led to some losses; however, the company had a vision for growth and it decided to take the hit keeping the future growth in mind. Shoppers Stop has witnessed a big growth in terms of the number of stores during the last two decades and has expanded across India. Typically, the store sizes in a Tier I city ranges between 50,000–55,000 sq ft and in a Tier II city it ranges between 30,000–40,000 sq ft. Managing such large stores with multiple brands was only possible with a well-thought distribution strategy and warehouse management system in place. Four distribution centres in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata cater to all the stores across South, West, North, and East zone, respectively, within 24 hours. With increasing sales, all they had to do was increase the capacity of these distribution centres. Furthermore, they have been one of the few retailers who took up online retailing even before it became a revolution. They launched their dot com website in early 2000; however, it was much ahead of its time. The telecom infrastructure did not support online retailing, nor the customer reach was possible and buyers did not have the devices to shop online. The late 2000s gave the customers an opportunity to shop online; as the devices were easily available, new touch screen mobile phones changed the navigation completely. Customer preferences have also changed in the last few years, shopping has become more of a planned event, which previously used to be an impulsive decision. Additionally, growing city boundaries and increasing traffic bottlenecks are a big challenge for brick-and-mortar stores, whereas online shopping is time saving. Considering the shift in retailing, Shoppers Stop also re-launched their online shopping portal in 2015 and currently 1% of their revenue is contributed by online sales and is expected to reach 10% in the next three years. All these initiatives taken by the company not only helped them to achieve their business milestones but also formed the foundation for the next wave of retailing.
Shoppers Stop with their well-thought strategic initiatives had the base ready for incorporating omni-channel retailing. In 2015, Shoppers Stop made a strategic shift in this direction with its omni-channel foray that aims to redefine the customer shopping experience. Shoppers Stop intends to provide a seamless and unified shopping experience across its multiple channels, i.e. physical stores, web, social, TV and marketplaces. Their plan is to go completely live and fully omni channel by the end of 2017. They will be one of the first Indian retailers to adopt the omni-channel approach, which is still at a very nascent stage in India. Currently, it’s a work in progress with a number of strategies to achieve the kind of integration required for an omni-channel experience, two of the most important steps in this direction are explained below:
Other than procuring the right kind of technology to integrate customer management, order management and inventory management, they also redesigned and launched a new website, which is compatible across all devices including laptops, mobiles, ipads and tablets. Another initiative towards incorporating digital technology within the brick-and-mortar store was the Magic Mirror. It was a first-of-its-kind in a department store in India; it enabled customers to swipe through various products without having physically to ‘try on’ the desired products. To enhance its customer outreach, Shoppers Stop has also entered into strategic alliances with a number of online market places like Snapdeal, Amazon, Jabong and Flipkart. Another initiative in the omni-channel direction is capturing the customer preferences based on the past shopping history. They also offer multiple payment options, e.g. using the freecharge wallet in all its stores. Their intention is to offer the same experience to the customer be it online or in the store.
Since they are a multi-brand retailer, their challenges for integration are much more. A number of brands present in their stores are also available online or on other marketplace websites heavy discounting on these websites is one of the biggest challenges. However, they foresee a change in the buyer’s perspective in the coming years, where more and more consumers will focus on quality and convenience rather than discounts. Another challenge is the limited availability of quality retail spaces for future growth of brick-and-mortar stores. According to Shoppers Stop, there is scope for expansion in Tier I cities; however, a lack of options is restricting the expansion, especially in cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru. Lastly the FDI regulation in multi brand retail must adopt a level playing field to support the local players.•••