From electronic gizmos to Italian food all available under one roof, writes S. AISHWARYA
“Bill me a kilo of tomatoes and onions. Along with Mac’s eye shadow, two triple A batteries and a litre of refined oil.” Sounds as some Utopian vision of new generation shopping? Well that’s precisely what most supermarkets promise you – all-under-one-roof shopping experience.
Not long before, you had to elbow your way through the crowd of customers to hand over the shopping list to the snappy owner of the shop. After jostling for space in the wiry sun shade of the department store for half-an-hour, you were shoved with a rugged plastic cover brimming with essentials.
Shopping experience has now changed drastically with America’s pioneering concept of supermarkets. Open shelves and self-services have found their way into the metropolises of the country have now crept into ‘behind-the-times’ cities like Tiruchi.
The sparse sun shade is replaced with swanky interiors; disorderly crowd with tidy queue; and languid hand-billing with express software. If you have been planning to revamp your wardrobe, replenish sugar stocks and wind up in a restaurant for a dinner, you no more need to make several stops. The supermarkets have combined them all, from electronic gizmos to Italian food.
Groceries beat the rest of services at these shops. Carefully picked potatoes, spotless apples and boxed grapes make the hitherto pain-in-the-neck experience of choosing best of vegetables and fruits effortless. “Prices at the air-conditioned supermarkets are almost the same as in any of the neighbourhood stores. In fact, most of the branded cosmetics and packaged foods come at much cheaper price,” observes Rani Preethi, a homemaker.
The quality, diversity and freshness of the food we buy have improved radically. But how are the smaller traders finding it?
“There are a string of reasons why supermarkets cut down on M.R.P. rates. One, they buy and sell in bulk. Nobody goes to such shops just to buy a shampoo or urad dhal. Customers enter only with a long shopping list in mind,” says K. Lakshminarayanan, who runs a stationery shop near Chathram Bus Stand.
Radhika Manoharan, co-owner of a department store on Nandhi Koil Street, can’t agree more. “Big players like Reliance, More and Spencers have entered into competition. Their investments allow them to go on major price-cuts. We can’t match their rates. We are not driven out of business but sale has been drastically cut.”
However, pushing a cart of tidily arranged vegetables, M. Krishnaswamy, is not complaining. “The grocery shops are all posh. But from what I heard, they use a lot of inorganic pesticides and genetically modified fruits to make them look fresh and healthy. My vegetables are from my farm, so my customers have not drifted away.”
One of the loyal clientele to unassuming local shops is P. T. Kadiresan, senior accounts manager in a private concern. “These shops have limited stocks. So we can make out what is fresh and what is not. The bright lights in supermarkets are deceiving. It’s difficult for us to pick out the right kind of stuff.” Brinda Ravikumar, who stops at supermarkets once a month to stack the essentials, finds the neighbourhood shops convenient. “At least, the temptation is less. We think of hurrying out of a supermarket with just a detergent powder in hand. But once we get in, there are lots of other things that make us think as essentials. Of course, realisation comes only later.”
The country’s biggest players that are expanding at breakneck speeds are poised to set their foot on tier II cities and Tiruchi will soon be in the race. But Femina Shopping Mall, one of the first entrants into the supermarket business, still attracts a good chunk of people during weekends. The upmarket dress stores, imported jewelleries, food stalls, kids’ kiosks and spacious parking lots are what make the mall stand top in the list of weekend hang-outs in the city.
Director of Femina Shopping Mall Mohamed Ismail cuts a confident figure. “Chains of stores are no doubt a hit in metropolises. To succeed in a city like Tiruchi, one needs to gauge the local tastes and expectations. Only after extensive survey in the city did we plan the infrastructure. We are sure to retain our customers.”
Customers are precious for the shoppers and convenience is the key to secure them. More supermarkets would only mean cosier shopping experience for the city residents.