Retailers renew interest in neighbourhood stores

Nov 17 2013, 03:45 IST
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SummaryWith the ubiquitous kirana shops flourishing, big retailers in India have not really been able to crack the convenience store format

With the ubiquitous kirana shops flourishing, big retailers in India have not really been able to crack the convenience store format. That, however, hasn’t stopped them from trying, with Trent being the latest to venture into the space.

The Tata-owned retailer’s first small store — Star Daily — has come up in Pune’s emerging residential hub at Pimpri-Chinchwad, spread across 2,000 square feet. “It’s a very small store, so we only have food and groceries. It’s an experiment,” a senior Trent executive said, adding the response has been fairly good, and that this might encourage the firm to open another store or two.

“The first set of stores may be in Pune, before we enter other cities, as the groundwork in terms of supply chain has been set in the city,” the executive said. Ironically, Tata’s bigger supermarket format, Star Bazaar, has not opened any store in FY13 due to higher costs.

Aditya Birla’s More chain has opened eight slightly smaller stores of 1,000 square feet each in Bangalore’s residential apartment complexes in the past one year. “Customers might not find everything they need but their daily requirement of vegetables, fruits and groceries will be met. We are looking at this model seriously since it is more profitable, given the smaller-store size and higher catchment,” Vishak Kumar, CEO, supermarkets, Aditya Birla Retail, told FE.

The renewed interest in the convenience store segment comes despite incumbents having a hard time. Reliance Fresh, which runs 453 small outlets, reported a net loss of R54.7 crore in FY13. While the value formats grew at compounded 19% during FY13, the fashion and lifestyle businesses grew at 45%, and the brands’ business grew at 82 %.

In 2007, the Future Group opened a convenience chain format — KB’s FairPrice —which it ran on a nine-year franchise model to grocery shopkeepers. While the group wanted to scale up the business from 160 stores to 225 by 2010, it has managed to open 200 FairPrice stores across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. However, there are plans to grow the chain to 1,000 stores over the next two years.

Subhiksha Trading Services, of course, wound down its 1,600 stores in 2009 after it went bust, defaulting around R750 crore to 13 banks. It was positioned as a low-margin neighborhood store.

“It is difficult to run a small-store convenience model in India since the costs are different from kirana stores. It makes more

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