The development of an International airport has fuelled a modern retail boom in this coastal district of Kerala with local retailers modernizing their formats to offer a more wholesome and delightful shopping experience.
Greens Hypermarket typifies the retail boom in Kannur, Kerala
Kannur, in Kerala, is enjoying its heyday of retail boom after long years of relative obscurity. Located in Kerala’s northern coast, Kannur was once an ancient trading port bristling with International trade and known as a great emporium of spice trade. However, along the way, the city lost its halo as a thriving centre of commerce and the mantle passed down to magnets emerging along the State’s southern coast – Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey, Kochi, Kollam, Kasargod, Kottayam and Kozhikode. These cities shot into the public ken for their touristy appeal and other attractions.
But in recent years, Kannur has been witnessing a turn in fortunes. An International airport – Kerala’s second greenfield airport to come up in public-private partnership mode – is on its way and scheduled for commissioning by September this year. The prized infrastructure development has brought in its wake a swirl of other commercial and real estate activities. Most notably, Kannur has become the epicentre of a retail boom with a sudden spurt in swanky shops and stores opening up with metronomic regularity.
According to Muneer Mattool, Managing Director at Kannur’s Greens Hypermarket, the change in the city’s retail landscape has been dramatic. “There is a sizable population in the city comprising expats from the Gulf countries and so it did not take long for people to adapt to modern, organized retail.” He says that business in Kannur today outperforms those in the neighboring districts. “Retail sales in Kannur are a lot higher in comparison to Kozhikode (Calicut), about 90 km away. Also, unlike its neighboring districts, Kannur has a higher number of women shoppers and those seeking a more modern shopping experience.”
As Kannur’s retail transformation continues unabated, Greens Hypermarket stands out as an enduring shopping icon. But for its promoter Muneer, the venture into retail was not smooth sailing in the beginning. His first brush with retail was when he joined the Margin Free store in 1997 as its Director of North Malabar. The enterprise operated under a franchise model but failed to haul in appreciable profits and had to be shut down. Making a bold gambit of his experience in retail, Muneer launched Greens Hypermarket in 2001 by taking up a 3,500 square feet area near the RTO at Fort Road. “We started with 5,000 SKUS and were able to manage an annual growth rate of 25%,” says Muneer.
During the early years of business, Muneer’s biggest concern was to gain consumer trust. To win customer loyalty, he introduced an effective card system for redeeming points against any purchase made at the store. On its part, the card proved to be a valuable tool for providing accurate data of placewise sales as well as location-wise high-end sales. By analyzing and interpreting the data generated from sales, Muneer crafted special offers and schemes for customers, which helped bring in more business for the store. “We started out by offering bonus points during festivals like Onam, and the strategy turned out to be a big hit. This helped in gaining the customer’s trust,” he says.
Thanks to his retailing nous and customercentric approach, Muneer has been successful in expanding the footprint of Greens Hypermarket beyond Kannur. The enterprise today boasts of 13 stores with branches in Kannur, Calicut, Wayanad and Eranakulam and encompasses a product range extending to over 25,000 stock keeping units. With an annual growth rate of 10-15%, Greens Hypermarket model is known for its mall-attached format and for leveraging a large number of walk-ins from in and around commercial hubs.
But like every successful venture, there have been plenty of challenges to overcome along the way. Attrition rates in the sector pose a big challenge for retailers and Muneer has been trying to battle it by offering better facilities to his people. “Apart from the challenges of retaining the team, there are issues related to scarcity of trained labor, management and maintenance of inventory and the challenge of plugging leakages and thefts,” points out Muneer, who is now planning to open a couple of standalone stores while keeping Kannur and Calicut his primary locations.
Thanks to his retailing nous and customercentric approach, Muneer has been successful in expanding the footprint of Greens Hypermarket beyond Kannur. The enterprise today boasts of 13 stores with branches in Kannur, Calicut, Wayanad and Eranakulam and encompasses a product range extending to over 25,000 stock keeping units.
Muneer Mattool MD, Kannur’s Greens Hypermarket