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And now... experience shopping

Display centres with functional gadgets, a.k.a `experience shopping' is the new buzzword in the twin cities

IT IS a long wait for Aparna Gupta every year - read the annual numaish - to make her purchases of a washing machine, kitchen appliances and the rest of the ware. In spite of a plethora of multi-brand outlets in the twin cities, why does she prefer to wait? No, it is not the money differential, one finds, as she and her husband work for an MNC, having just moved back to India from New Jersey. "I prefer shopping at the annual Industrial Exhibition because stalls display a product, say a toaster, microwave or a grinder in a functional condition. One gets a first hand experience with live demonstration at the various stalls there," she says.

A piping hot sandwich popping from a grill or a tall glass of lassi made in front of you sure surpasses any amount of innovative display at the multi brand stores, consumers feel. Taking a cue from this new factor that seems to play as a decider for consumers to bag a product, business houses are slowly opting for the `experience shopping' model for their exclusive stores in the twin cities.

A case in point is the Prestige Smart Kitchen. On entering these outlets, the consumer is struck by a déjà vu, of stepping into the kitchen back home. Pressure cookers, pans, cooking range and a knife holder, are tidily arranged on a black marble topped kitchen table. The kitchen module is replete with a sink. "We wanted to showcase our entire range of products in an aesthetic manner. The smart kitchen module has been a hit, so much so that there have been enquiries from people who come to buy the products, who would like us to create such kitchens for them as well. Probably we would be doing this after six months," chuckles an official at the Prestige Smart Kitchen outlet at Khairatabad.

Neena, of Hindustan Sanitaryware & Industries Limited (HSIL) Display Centre at S.P.Road has a similar experience to share, as regards consumers who come to shop for bath fittings, shower panels and kitchen taps here. "Their first reaction is `acha! It works!' when they touch the knob of a tap and feel the gush of water into the sink or set their optimum water pressure or hot water mixer. They also like the bathroom fitting combinations of a WC and basin that are available at the centre. A display concept definitely makes it very easy for people to choose the product," she says.

The basic idea is to offer the consumer a live experience in a home-like environment as against the crowded streets in a hardware market," says J.K. Somani, Vice President (Commercial & Co-ordination) Hindustan Sanitaryware & Industries Limited, about the HSIL display centres conceptualised based on stores in Singapore.

If the new concept of hardware store offers you bath fixtures in near natural setting instead of one-of-the-many in a maze of tile, taps and lampshade samples, a similar experience awaits to greet the home maker who plans to get the house painted. Catalogues and shade cards are passé. The mantra today is `make your melange'. "Today the customer has an option to visualise their own homes. Consumers can drop in at any of the Asian Paints retail outlets and run the Colour World programme, and create their own colours, at the click of a mouse," says an official from Asian Paints Home Solutions.

From the companies' point of view, such innovative concept at their retail showrooms is an occasion to display products judiciously that probably would not be possible in a multi-brand outlet. "The multi-brand outlet would be only interested in the profit, brand irrelevant," says an executive of a leading kitchenware brand. As also a new mantra to attract the have-money-will-buy jet setting suave client. "Today brochures and pamphlets don't help sale. It is the era of giving an image to the product. This trend is especially seen in the bathroom fittings and kitchen ware segments since today bathrooms and kitchens are getting more of style statements and said to speak for you," says Naem Khan, managing director, The Lead.

"Real estate wise there are not too many cities that are as cheap as Hyderabad which would provide a fillip for these companies to open elaborate display centres here," he adds. As for the purchasing power? Well the mushrooming of shopping hubs and existing ones going packed says it all. In coming years the new `experience shopping' concept might just become a regular affair.


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