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Indian retailers test waters on 24-hour shopping fests

Raghavendra Kamath  |  Mumbai 

Big retailers say the events work, but others aren’t sure.

Enthused by the response it got for the 48-hour shopping event in eZone, its consumer durables and electronic chain, the Kishore Biyani-led Future Group plans to hold such events across its other formats. The group earned over Rs 60 crore from eZone’s ‘Zero margin 48 hours non-stop’ offer last weekend. This is said to be the highest sales the chain has ever posted in a two-day period.

Though the offer ended on June 13 in 36 standalone stores of eZone and 16 shop-in-shops, the group has extended the offer on eZone’s online platform till June 18. “We have got good response for the event. We might do it in others as well,” said Kishore Biyani, chief executive of Future Group.

Such shopping promotions are needed for the group in its consumer durables and electronic (CDE) segment, as its home retail business, which includes CDE, was earlier the laggard among the group’s ventures. It started making progress in same-sales growth after November 2009. Same-store sales compare sales in stores which have in the business for a year or more.

“In electronics, you need to create consumption days and induce people to buy. Our cash counters were filled on Friday when the sale started,” said Vivek Biyani of Home Solutions Retail India, part of the Future group.

Apart from the ‘zero margin’ attraction, which ensured prices were lower than in normal days, eZone also offered discounts on iPods, MP3 players and other such items for shoppers who came in the morning and on digital cameras for those who walked in between 12 pm and 3 am.

Others have had a similar experience. Even The Collective, a high-end apparel and accessory store of the Aditya Birla group, in Lower Parel in Mumbai, saw overwhelming crowds on June 11, when the store opened its ‘All night Duty Free’ offer, where products were sold at 20-50 per cent discount.

The store had mocktails and a DJ (disco jockey) to entertain the crowds. “The last customer was there at 4 am. We lost a lot of business because of staff shortage,” said a staffer at the Collective Store.

Challenging experiment
Though ‘all-night shopping’ is popular in the US, parts of Europe and Dubai, the experiment is turning out be challenging for Indian retailers due to infrastructure and logistics issues. The Collective, for instance, did not get permission from mall authorities to hold an all-night, three-day event. It had to settle for a one-day, all-night event, store executives said. However, this was denied by Rajendra Kalkar, centre director of The Phoenix Mills. He said any store in the mall didn’t require permission to hold such an event.

Apart from providing parking and security to night shoppers, retailers are also facing a staff crunch. While The Collective had just four people to manage two floors of the premium store at night, eZone’s Mulund store executives said they did two shifts, from nine in the morning to nine at night, while another batch did the rest.

“We are so fatigued, we just want to go home and sleep,” said a staffer at the Mulund store on June 13 (Sunday) night. But, Future’s Vivek Biyani says staffers’ shifts are not stretched due to such promotions. Not all chains are enthused with the idea of whole-night shopping. “I am happy to have a midnight shopping festival than a 24-hour shopping event, as people like to hang out till midnight,” says Nikhil Chaturvedi, managing director of apparel retailer Provogue.

Says a chief executive of an electronic and durables chain: “It is just a promotion. Customers can see through you and they are smart enough to understand it is just a gimmick. It will backfire if you do not organise it properly.’’

The Future Group values the experience. “Issues will be there. We have to learn from them and move forward,” said Vivek Biyani.

First Published: Sun, June 20 2010. 00:58 IST