The Festival season is at the threshold, and soon the shopping fever will spread, shoppers are already in the process of making their lists, etching out budgets and soon they will be flocking into stores prepared to celebrate the great Indian festival season. This translates into nothing but opportunity for retailers; it’s a golden period of the year, thus one question that encompasses the spirit, what’s brewing in-stores for this festive season? We speak to some leading retailers across varied categories to know what their plans are for the upcoming season. Read on to know the action behind the scenes!
A Strategic overview for the Season!
“Although the retail industry is struggling due to slow down but the festive season will allow us to make up for it. I am sure the entire industry is gearing up to the season and is prepared to work hard for it, as for us at HyperCITY a lot is brewing, we have a new and exciting collection exclusively for the festive season. It is a vibrant range of ensembles specially created keeping in mind the various festivals that will be celebrated over the next few months. The designs are a fine balance of traditional and contemporary and will appeal to different age groups. As far as non-apparel products are concerned, we have our regular sales and exclusive offers that attract heavy foot falls especially during holidays. We therefore expect a rise in sales that will contribute to a healthy bottom line.
Further on we have a hugely popular loyalty program that covers over 7 lakh customers, we will communicate and engage with them continuously to ensure they make the most of our special offers. Given that more than 50 per cent of our business comes from these customers and that regular communication has ensured that the size of their cash memos keeps growing, it makes most sense to tap this customer base. Additionally we will attract new customers with special offers and exclusive deals.”
The Marketing Make!
Being one of the most important engines that will drive in revenues is marketing, we dive beyond the strategy layer to understand the marketing initiatives that are lined up to attract maximum amount of shoppers and revenue this season. Darshana Shah – Senior Vice President –Marketing & Visual Merchandising shares the marketing make of HyperCITY for the upcoming festive season. “We understand the importance of investing in marketing and know that it leads to handsome returns. While we cannot disclose numbers, we have set aside a sizable chunk for marketing related activities. On the promotional end, we will aim at engaging with customers both in store and outside. So while on one hand we will have an exciting line up of customer engagement activities taking place at our various tores, we will also keep our loyalty programme customers informed about our special deals and exclusive offers.” Further keeping the shopper needs in mind for the season ideas are weaved around it. HyperCITY is a big store that offers big savings. A large chunk of our revenue comes from sales of food products. As consumption of food products typically goes up in every household during the festival season, HyperCITY believes it will be able to cater to this segment best. “We have several existing daily offers such as Monday Mandi and Win-Win Wednesday which have been received well by our customers. We also expect higher foot falls not just because of a surge in demand, but also because of more holidays when people typically step out to shop.” Highlights Darshana.
The soul of this seasons marketing plan at HyperCITY lies in engaging with customers both in store and outside. So while on one hand they have an exciting line up of customer engagement activities taking place at their various stores, they will also keep their loyalty programme customers informed about the special deals and exclusive offers.
“Footfalls on holidays typically go up by three times. Our new festive apparel collection and special offers are bound to generate customer interest. We are quite hopeful.” Darshana concludes.
The Operations Orchestrate
For the strategy and marketing initiatives to manifest into success a strong operations backend is quintessential, “Typically our large format stores see just over 2 lakh footfalls per month. During the festive season, especially on holidays footfalls increase by up to three times.” indicates Simon Hooper, COO, HyperCITY a number which makes operations an extremely critical link. Thus we had Simon sharing as to what all will be done on the operations front to ensure seamless functioning.
He first gives us an insight into the typical process of operational planning he tells us what is important and what is often neglected. This is what Simon has to say, “Successful Festive trading periods require significant coordination of strategy, structure, systems, skills, style, teamwork and communication across retail operators. This collaboration of skills influences detailed planning which falls into three phases, pre-season planning, seasonal implementation and post event recovery which include a period of PIR (post implementation review).”
In his view post implementation review is the most neglected aspect of event planning, but is without doubt the most critical for taking the learning from each festive event which equally provides the foundations for success of the next event. The manner and depth of review is essential to success during the PIR post festive reviews as they have a direct impact on the strength of the following events this year not just in the season. Evaluation of current performance delivery must include deep and brutal self-analysis; leaders should encourage probing questions which are required to raise the performance bar in preparation for the next event. “Do not be fooled into thinking that customers will tolerate poor performance or will not take notice of it, remember customers today are well educated, travel extensively, tech-savvy, and very demanding, further on they have significant choices out there.”
The typical planning process begins on day one of the new event launch in stores; this is where customers and colleagues starting reacting and real learning begin. The leadership team walks the sales floor in detail seeking real time feedback, hard truths and customers’ viewpoints. The culture of transparency here really matters in reality feedback does delight and hurt in equal measures, at times we all get it wrong. Critical success demands identifying winning concepts, products, brands, price points, methods of Visual merchandising and emotional displays that trigger the impulse in customers to purchase our products, creating compelling features for the home to wear, to present or to eat. During the period the focus is driven into the detail of selling more products and ensure slower product movements are understood – is it price, layout, fabric, design or color that is creating the pace or lack of it for each product, range or story; the best retailers are solution providers and focus individuals on what they can do to improve this situation. The seasonal winners show themselves first and are easily understood, the art and science of good retail is how to capture the slow movers and find rapid solutions.
So what time frame is the most critical? To which Simon says, “The operational team has three peaks to face which begins in August, each phase is equally important as they each impact the customers’ journey and perception of the store. The planning peak is dynamic with a systematic review of how to invest and deploy resources to deliver peak sales and maximize the customer experience through day by day planning of colleagues, stock, deliveries, promotions, sampling and legal due diligences. The planning phases must include key contingencies for things that will and do go wrong. Contingency planning in the ‘lull before the storm’ does reduce the impact of threats to critical events when they occur.”
HyperCITY’s Marketing Initiatives for this Festive Season
The new festival special apparel collection. An attractive new range of apparels will hit the floor which is a combination of both traditional and contemporary designs. This exclusive collection will be showcased attractively through innovative visual merchandising.
Rewarding all loyalty program members with exclusive offers and special deals. The periodic newsletters of HyperCITY will keep them informed about new launches, collections, discounts and sales. This will give the loyalty customers an edge over the walk in customers, and they will get to sample the offers before the rest
One of the most important factor of operation is the manpower planning, shedding light on the same Simon says, The planning of manpower derives from scheduling each department which means an experienced review of hard data, what are the key actives in each department on each day, in each hour and what task does each person conduct, how long will each job take in man hours. This daily systematic approach builds up a profile of required people, man-hours and the skills required. The hourly, daily profile creates a weekly and monthly schedule of manpower inclusive of skills required in stores at any given point of time. Once hours are forecasted and budgeted, managers in each department, store, division must fill the schedules to support the business needs. However efficiencies and multi-tasking are key influencers of profitable sales, which then raise the question of colleagues’ knowledge, skills and training. Identifying the shortfall in stores resources should be done in August to ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time armed with the correct skill set.”
But despite meticulous planning there are multiple challenges, one of which is Pilferage large footfalls and increased commotion means a spike in shop-lifting and other issues, how does HyperCITY deals with the same, “During peak season everything moves in peak volumes and that includes the number of people trying to steal, as a result our security teams employ a number of tactics to reduce theft after consultation with the local police. Our links with the local police have ensured we learn how to protect our people, profits and property .Firstly we have invested in excellent CCTV systems which allow us to monitor movements of people inside and around our premises, our security teams can monitor activity and capture details for the police which is used to prosecute people caught stealing. Our stores use plain clothes guards and uniformed guards operating inside our stores and this approach toward catching thieves has proved to be very successful as our team drive down losses to the business. Phase three post the festive event is closing down the event in a clear and concise way for the customers, and then smoothly executing a smooth transition into the next themed event for customers across the sales floor whilst behind the scenes the robust evaluating process has begun where colleagues formulate the tactics for the next festive period.”
Buying & Merchandising’s Shopping List!
Season is round the corner and the demand trends and expectation of shoppers keep changing with every season, making it important for Buying and Merchandising department to stock and offer all that the customer wants. We speak to Ashutosh Chakradeo, Chief Merchandising Officer, HyperCITY who takes us through the details of what Buying and merchandising department does.
So what the plan this season and where does it all start? “We keep an eye on various trade fairs displaying their future season ranges throughout the year. We keep a hawk’s eye on global trends and source only the best from foreign and local brands. Our upcoming festive collection for apparels is bound to be a huge hit as we have hand-picked the crème-de-la-crème of styles, cuts and colors. You will see the new collection in our stores shortly.” Highlights Ashutosh.
So what category is going to be hot this season for HyperCITY? “Our exclusive and private labels are doing exceptionally well. In fact they account for 22 per cent of our business. While we have maintained quality and exclusivity, we have also controlled costs to ensure affordability. There are several mix and match options available for our desi recessionistas, who have made recycling their wardrobe an art! So one scarf or kurti can be worn in multiple ways and our visual merchandising reflects that versatility.”
How do you shortfalls and excess of inventory? “Post peak season within seven days, each store team builds its own stock order blue print for the following season, learning is captured and recommendations made to commercial central teams. Customer feedback groups and surveys provide more qualitative and quantitative data, which is diagnosed centrally for further analysis. Structured meetings conclude statistical reviews and provide detailed recommendations for the next season which is now only 364 days away and the clock is ticking. This is what enables us to come up with better estimates and plans.”
In all the team at HyperCITY feels, the festive season is an excellent opportunity for the retail sector to bounce back. If retailers approach customers will well thought out and appropriately targeted strategies, they are bound to get a good response.
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