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New Delhi: Electronics retailer Croma is set to add 100 stores by the end of the next financial year, its highest-ever yearly store addition. The move comes at a time when sales of home appliances, laptops and other electronics remained strong as the pandemic drove demand for washing machines and large-screen TVs. Croma is operated by Infiniti Retail Ltd—a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Pvt. Ltd. The company operates a multi-brand retail chain of consumer electronics and durables.

The retailer is also working towards improving its website and online delivery services as more retailers build digital capabilities owing to a rapid shift in shopping behaviour this year.

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“2020 has been a year of transition for us. It was always going to be one because we had already embarked on this digitization piece. We were supposed to open 65 stores this year. Hopefully, we're ending with 45 new stores this year and another 20 are in fit-outs," said Ritesh Ghosal, chief marketing officer, Croma, Infiniti Retail Ltd. He admitted to delays but hoped to meet the targets. “Next year, the plan is 100 stores. We hopefully should be able to meet that target. Although the quarter-wise projections are off as projects have gotten delayed (due to covid-related issues such as labour and delay in clearances)," he added.

On the digital side, Croma, which operates more than 175 stores currently, is improving its presence online with mobiles, electronics and appliances continuing to top sales on online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart. “Now on the digital side—it’s seen an acceleration this year because we had to hurry up in order to play catch-up with our online friends. And, also, because customers switched behaviour very quickly," said Ghosal.

Ghosal promises a new digital avatar for Croma complete with a revamped website. A couple of months ago, the retailer launched buy-on-video call as a service. This lets shoppers inspect products, and get a 360-degree view with the assistance of a store staff who take consumer queries and give demonstrations.

“On the anvil right now are better tracking of our online purchases. One thing we realize is people who buy online are used to getting very predictable delivery slots. That's something which we are developing—the inventory management system between stores and online. This will allow us to offer more aggressive timelines for delivery and therefore out-compete the marketplaces," he said.

To be sure, more retailers are entering 2021 with better digital facilities as covid has forced a more permanent shift in shopping patterns.

A June report by BCG estimates that the share of online purchasing of smartphones, for instance, is expected to rise to 45% from 38% in pre-covid levels. From June to September, sale of washing machines grew 5.6% in volume over the year-ago period, while microwave ovens reported a 21.4% growth. Demand for shavers also went up as the category recorded volume growth of 18.8%, while food processors grew 8.6%. Volume growth for mobile computing or laptops stood at 22%, market research firm GfK said in a November report.

For the year ended 31 March 2020, Croma reported a total income of 5,173.01 crore, a 11% jump from year-ago period. However, its losses widened too at 204 crore for the year from a profit of 196.85 crore reported in the year ago period.

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