Organic Kitchen Gardening and my personal musings

This blog is about my experiments with Organic Kitchen Gardening and sometimes about other personal experiences of my life… Please leave a comment about anything that touched you. Comments help to keep the blogger motivated to keep blogging :)

Shift in loyalty from Branded stores to neighbourhood Kirana store August 3, 2009

Sometime last month I decided to move my monthly retail grocery purchase from branded retail chains to my neighbourhood kirana store.

Darn !! does this topic deserve a blog post ??

Well I think so, because like Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, ‘You don’t write because you have to say something. You write because you have something to say’ and I do believe I have something to say here.

So, what is it that, I have to say ??

From the past so many years (around 7-8) I have been shopping with these branded multi store retail chains. Don’t remember which store I started with, was it foodworld ? doesn’t matter. Over these years I surely have been a customer of most of them like Fabmall, Total, Star, Big Bazaar, Reliance retail, Nilgiris etc etc… at least once. Am no shopaholic, but even the mundane monthly shopping plays a role in life and takes a significant amount of time and energy (want to say money also ??).

First time these stores came into scene I kind of remember rims being written about the way user retail purchase experience will change for ever(surely it has), the way they will force Kirana stores out of business sometime in near future.. and things like that.

I don’t have anything to say on the strategic level or the direction in which this whole business is moving. But I have something to say on what I have experienced as a customer over the period of last 7-8 years and why I think a change is necessary from me as a customer.

Now that I had already made my mind about the shift and implemented it on the very 1st day of this month (Khus hai Zamaana aaj pehli Taarikh hai 🙂 ). This is what I have to say about my experience after this shift in my loyalty:

1. I saved fuel and felt environment conscious – The nearest multi branded retail store from my place is a good 4 kms away. Which means 8 kms to and fro of travelling. The nearest Kirana store is just 0.5 kms away. Hmm…there are no multibranded stores nearer than 4 kms to my place. Sometimes I feel we as a soceity have come to place a very high premium on the necessity of omni-presence of these stores. Infact the hearsay is, the moment a store of these kinds opens up in a locality, the residential rental and real estate prices of the area tend go up. So, there is nothing to be surprised, if next time you are looking to rent/buy a place in once such locality and the guy actually quotes higher prices citing the presence of these stores in viccinity.

2. I saved time – Baring the travelling time, the amount of time I would normally spend on monthly grocery shopping is cut by 75%. I was fed up with the ever growing long queues at the billing counters of these stores. Apart from the time spent at the billing counter a lot of time was spent looking for things I would like to buy, for example staples would be in one section, detergents and soaps would be in another section and so on… This probably gives a good oppurtunity for people leading a sedantary lifestyle to have a good walk. But of late I don’t appreciate that point much, I would rather prefer to do a proper jog in that time or tend to my kitche garden. Moreover, if I analyse my buying habits over these years, am not the kind of consumer who would change the brand of things used every few months. Am kind of boring and use more or less the same brand of Toothpaste,Toothbrush, Tea, Oil, Ghee, Sauce, Detergent, Soap, Musquito Repellant etc etc… (Delight customer for the marketing guys of those companies!!) for last so many years, and I care less about the brand of staples like Haldi, Jeera, Dal, Poha, Chawal etc etc… as long as they pass the quality standards adopted/learned by me over these years.

Then why spend time in a large retail store trying to find out my brand of things out of so many other brands on the shelf ?? Sheer waste of time I felt.

I just gave a list of items to the Kirana store owner (along with brand of things which I care for) and the full packaging and billing was ready in flat 10 minutes (The time I would have proabably spent in getting into and out of the parking space in a big store — little exaggeration).

3. Aren’t those retail chains supposed to be super efficient in their SCM (Supply Chain Management) and pass on that benifit to customer ?? — Well I too felt so in the initial days. That, there is price advantage in buying from these stores (Remember those foot notes on the computerized bill, saying how much we saved on our buing this month). But little bit of looking around in the past month has changed my perception of things. These big stores seem to be giving a price advantage only on certain carefully selected items and they advertise about it in a big way about this (If you are a daily subscriber of any newspaper and the vendor in your area is a hard-dworking guy, you probably know what am talking about). But, there are tens of other items which a consumer like me purchases on a regular basis and they give pittance in terms of price advantage on those items. I had come to believe that probably those other items can never be sold below M.R.P and hence didn’t expect much discount on them, and a reduction of 20-50 paise on a purchase of Rs. 50 item would make my face glow with the brightness of ‘know all’ monk.

I was wrong. Even on those items there is nothing wrong in getting a bargain on M.R.P (M.R.P is meant only to be indicative of the ‘Maximum’ Retail Price… Didn’t the govt guys advertize this on T.V sometime back on the ‘Zaago Grahak Zago’ series — Went unnoticed ?? I know, most of the govt adv series have to and can do a better job). The neighbourhood kirana stores did offer me exactly that, a flat Rs. 1-2 discount on branded FMCG products of M.R.P range Rs. 50-100 and a discont of around Rs.5/- on locally packaged products of M.R.P range Rs. 20-40 (and there was no foot note on any conputerized bill). On one of the items he even gave me a discount of Rs. 55 on a product of M.R.P 270/- (10kg Ashirbad Atta), whereas the the best of big stores sell it at only a discount of 35/-.

So, what happened to the claim of super efficient SCM and price advantage pass to customers by the big stores?? May be it’s all getting eaten up by the highly inflated real estate rental bill, Power bill for A.C & lights, hoardes of english speaking employee (in a city of aspiring to be back-end of world), razzmatazz built around by bar code scanners and computers and yes the marketing cost (Want to include stuff like CEO,CFO,CXO salary – go on.).

To me it looks like the Kirana stores have cracked the code, they have realized where they belong (My Kirana store guy flaunted every item he was selling for lesser price than stores) and are here to stay (At least thats what I pray after todays experience).

4. Few more subtle benifits –
– The kirana guy was overwhelmed that a store going guy like me was in the process of getting converted (He could tell it from my face!!) and was over willing to help(offered to home deliver).
– Am sure he now recognizes me by face, and am not a no face consumer number with loyalty card to prove my allegiance to a store.
– I used cash and felt very happy about it ( Want to use as less as possible of this card).
– I have directly encouraged small scale enterpreunership.

Are there any other limitations ??

Well yes, they don’t really stock few items which I might buy once in a while like canned Tuna Fish, Olive Oil, Burger patty etc etc…So, I’ll change my verdict on the big retail stores a li’l, they too need to co-exist to cater to these needs of mine 🙂 and I’ll probably continue to make a visit to them once in a while to get these things and as well as check out new stuff not available in neighbourhood kirana.

Are there any risks in buying from these neghbourhood stores ??

Hmm… May be.. May be, once they realize that a customer is hooked on to their store, they may stop offering the kind of discount they gave the first time. Will see and sort out, over time.

Pinch of Salt: I am a value seeking Indian consumer and might change my loyality again if my experience changes.

Right now I feel chanting this slogan ‘Long live my country’s small and robust retail backbone and down with the ‘nis’ ‘yanis”.