Dont Make Customer The King At The Cost Of Profit

Kolkata: | Updated: Nov 28 2002, 05:30am hrs
Dont go overboard pampering the customer. Not if it means red ink on your balance sheet. Thats the message conveyed forcefully by The Home Store (THS) president Arif Shiekh, the retail chain that has set a record by opening 55 stores in nine months.

Mr Shiekh, addressing a galaxy of Indias retail chiefs, wannabe retailers and small-store owners, was blunt with his advice. We who call ourselves organised are the most unorganised, was one of his opening statements.

Mr Shiekh had no mercy for organised retailers who are yet to break even. How come family-owned stores and small stores (read: 500 to 1000sqft) can make money despite being unorganised and technologically backward Mr Shiekh said the key to making profit in business is to blend the traditional and new approaches, whether it is in handling customers or motivating the staff.

The Indian customer is always ready to compromise, so retailers thinking the customer is king should draw the line when this approach dilutes their performance, Mr Shiekh said.

Men are like boomerangs in that they come into a shop, go straight to pick up the stuff they want and get out. But women enjoy shopping. However, kids can distract them. So THS has designed separate areas for children, complete with nannies, at its stores, he added.

Mr Shiekh had other eye openers for Kolkatas new breed of supermarkets. One, it doesnt make sense to keep the baskets and shopping carts at the entrance as it deters impulse spending. Carts should be spread throughout the supermarket. Two, cash counters should not be at or near the entrance. Cash counters always have some people in a queue, and prospective customers may not even enter if they see one.

As for value additions like coffee shops within the retail outlet, Mr Shiekh said trolleys should have cup holders so that the customer can have his coffee while picking up his stuff.