As part of its efforts to attract a larger share of shoppers’ wallets, Pantaloon Retail India Ltd, part of the Future Group controlled by Kishore Biyani, is adding beauty salons, branded Star and Sitara, to its Big Bazaar hypermarkets.
In the same vein, the retailer is adding premium delis that will sell specialty cheese, wine, chocolates and champagne, typically high-margin but low-volume items that will appeal to a niche audience.
“There is a demand in the market for a range of imported ingredients that go into global cuisine, but are not readily available in India. The gourmet stores will target a section of the population that is passionate about food, and regularly tosses up exotic meals at home,” said Damodar Mall, CEO of innovations and incubations division at Pantaloon Retail.
The biggest margins for organized retailers in India currently are in clothing and household goods. Meanwhile, the biggest traffic is generated from perishables, including produce and meat, because many Indian households are not big believers—and often don’t have the refrigerator space—in stocking up on those products.
Retailers are increasingly trying to make sure that the traffic coming into their stores for such products also ends up buying other items. As a result, they are trying out various sections and sub-formats though the track record for some, such as beauty salons within supermarkets, isn’t too inspiring globally.
Over the next three months, Pantaloon will convert at least six outlets, which are larger than 100,000 sq. ft, into Big Bazaar Super Centres, which will have food courts, grooming, gaming and entertainment facilities. The first of these, in Surat, is slated to open in May. Others, in Bangalore, Nagpur, Coimbatore and Vadodara will open soon after. According to Big Bazaar CEO Rajan Malhotra, the company is talking to potential partners who will offer a range of products and services at the super centres.
As for delis, the company plans to develop three such gourmet stores, the first of which is to be located in New Delhi’s Saket area. This will be followed by stores in Bangalore and Mumbai.
Apart from selling food products, Pantaloon’s gourmet store plans to host interactive sessions with chefs, and food- and wine-tasting sessions.
“This is one of our concepts in the food category and we are right now working on the brand identity and other finer details,” said Mall.
Gourmet foods and ingredients are widely available in many large cities, often in speciality or small stores that source their stock from importers. Apart from inconsistent and high prices, the quality of products—for instance, in product expiry times—is also an issue in some cases.
Retailers such as Shoppers’ Stop have, in the past, experimented with gourmet food stores. But they are yet to increase the number of such outlets. Up-market restaurants, such as Mumbai’s Indigo, have also entered the segment. Indigo, for instance, runs the Indigo Deli in Mumbai that offers products similar to the ones Pantaloons will, but has a larger dine-in menu.