The one shop retail brand is fascinating because it goes against the grain of two of managements mantras. The first one is the “grow or perish” mantra and the second is the mantra of “change is the only constant”.
In the heart of Khan Market in Delhi is the bookseller Bahri & Sons . Over the last 5 decades perhaps the only expansion may be the a narrow annex that was adjoining the store. The frontage has not changed over the years .Recently the Mint newspaper ( 10 December 2016, Lounge edition) has an article on Vashis a jean shop in place since 1985 except for a brief shutdown in 2014.
The issue here is not whether the Owners were content with their one shop and had no intentions to expand. The question is how did they manage to stay afloat and build a brand with just one shop? There are customers for both outlets who would not be seen in a competing shop for love or money. Not for them the neighborhood Mall or the swanky new branded outlet on High Street. The Mint article ( written with passion by Ms Ramani) mentions of the city “weeping” when Vashis decided to close in 2014. Likewise, when the genial elder Bahri an iconic figure in Delhi passed away almost all the local papers had multi column obits.
Three takeaways from Ms Ramanis article, so obvious but so rare in the marketing space in many a retail store are :
Communication: The ubiquitous Hypermart, is seeking volume and turnover , not loyalty . Customers shop for convenience and would just as sooner switch to another Mall closer home if one were to open. The uniformed sales girls parked at the aisles are trained not to interfere with the customer, Not for them Mr Vashi Lakhanis mantra of “keep the conversation going”
Discount: The discount offered to a few in a store as a special case (when not expected), has a different “feel” then the displayed “offer for the day” in Hypermarts. To quote Mr Lakhani again , “Give them a discount and people will come back to you” … sage words indeed.
Feedback: Endorsements by customers, which can be seen by all shoppers helps in building a family environment. As FMCG majors jostle for shelf space , they would be more than willing for an extra margin to the shop that can boast of a committed clientele.
And so, along with the growth in impersonal “click and collect” retail outlets there is always space for the single outlet brand , nurtured through simple but powerful personal selling skills . Perhaps there is some merit for the Malls to incorporate the three differentiators !
Sridhar Chari – Sapience Research !