• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Retailers now adapt strategies to cater to changing consumer preferences, affordability concerns – Chawla

Retailers now adapt strategies to cater to changing consumer preferences, affordability concerns – Chawla

Sunny Chawla is a successful professional retail executive with a demonstrated level of achievement including increased leadership over the course of 15 years. Chawla who is currently the Managing Director of Garden City Mall and HyperCity, in this interview, explains challenges, changing trends and opportunities in the retail sector in Nigeria. He also reveals several successful initiatives and strategies that have significantly contributed to the growth and success of Garden City Mall and HyperCity, amongst others.

Read also: Upsurge in shopping malls will boost Nigerian economy, says entrepreneur

Can you share the journey from starting your retail business to the position you hold now? What were the critical milestones or challenges along the way?

Certainly! Starting my retail business was an exhilarating endeavour marked by meticulous planning, a clear vision, and a passion for providing exceptional products/services. The initial stages involved extensive market research, securing funding, and assembling a proficient team.

Critical milestones encompassed establishing a robust supply chain, cultivating a strong brand identity, and expanding our customer base through innovative marketing strategies. Challenges, including economic fluctuations and adapting to evolving consumer trends, pushed us to continually innovate and remain agile in our approach.

Throughout this journey, fostering strong relationships with suppliers, implementing efficient operational processes, and prioritizing customer satisfaction were pivotal in achieving sustained growth. Today, holding a leadership position, I attribute our success to a blend of resilience, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

In your experience as the Managing Director of Garden City Mall, what initiatives were pivotal in bringing international recognition to the mall?

As the Managing Director of Garden City Mall, several initiatives played a pivotal role in garnering international recognition. Implementing strategic partnerships with globally acclaimed brands and retailers significantly enhanced the mall’s appeal and diversified its offerings. Introducing innovative experiential zones, events, and entertainment programs catered to diverse audiences, attracting both local visitors and international tourists.

Embracing sustainable practices and creating an immersive, customer-centric environment further elevated the mall’s reputation on an international scale. These initiatives collectively positioned Garden City Mall as a premier destination, contributing to its recognition and success in the global retail landscape. As the Managing Director of Garden City Mall, several initiatives played a pivotal role in garnering international recognition.

Implementing strategic partnerships with globally acclaimed brands and retailers significantly enhanced the mall’s appeal and diversified its offerings. Introducing innovative experiential zones, events, and entertainment programs catered to diverse audiences, attracting both local visitors and international tourists. Embracing sustainable practices and creating an immersive, customer-centric environment further elevated the mall’s reputation on an international scale. These initiatives collectively positioned Garden City Mall as a premier destination, contributing to its recognition and success in the global retail landscape.

How has inflation affected retail businesses in Nigeria, and what are the significant challenges faced in this context?

Inflation has posed significant challenges for retail businesses in Nigeria, impacting both operational costs and consumer purchasing power. Rising inflation has led to increased costs of goods, production, and logistics, thereby squeezing profit margins for retailers. This phenomenon has often necessitated price adjustments, which can deter consumer spending and affect overall sales volume.

Moreover, the fluctuating currency value has made importation more expensive, affecting the availability and affordability of imported goods, which are a significant portion of the retail market in Nigeria.

Additionally, inflation’s impact on consumer purchasing power has led to altered spending patterns, with consumers becoming more price-conscious and shifting towards essential purchases rather than discretionary spending. This change in behavior has compelled retailers to adapt their strategies to cater to changing consumer preferences and affordability concerns.

Navigating these challenges has required innovative approaches such as cost optimization measures, exploring local sourcing alternatives, and implementing targeted marketing strategies to maintain competitiveness while ensuring sustained customer engagement amidst economic volatility.

Who do you think are the primary gainers and losers in the current retail market scenario in Nigeria?

In the current retail market scenario in Nigeria, the primary gainers are local producers and manufacturers who have shifted their focus towards domestic production. They benefit from reduced reliance on imported goods due to currency fluctuations and increased costs associated with imports. Additionally, retailers offering essential goods and affordable products have seen relatively stable demand despite economic uncertainties, making them gainers in this context.

Conversely, import-dependent retailers, especially those offering non-essential or luxury goods, face challenges due to the increased costs associated with importing goods, leading to higher prices for consumers. Moreover, retailers heavily reliant on discretionary spending and high-end consumer goods have experienced a decline in sales due to reduced consumer purchasing power amid inflationary pressures.
Adapting strategies, exploring local sourcing options, and diversifying product offerings have been crucial for retailers to mitigate losses and capitalize on emerging opportunities in this dynamic retail landscape in Nigeria.

With the increased cost of commodities, how has it affected the patronage and consumer behaviour in your retail businesses?

The increased cost of commodities has notably impacted consumer behaviour and patronage within our retail businesses at Garden City Mall. We’ve observed a shift in consumer spending patterns, with customers becoming more discerning and price-conscious. There’s a visible inclination towards essential purchases, coupled with a hesitancy towards discretionary spending on non-essential items due to budgetary constraints caused by rising commodity costs.

Moreover, the heightened prices of goods have prompted consumers to explore alternative options, compare prices more diligently, and seek value-for-money propositions. This shift has necessitated a strategic approach in our retail offerings, emphasizing competitive pricing, and promotional incentives, and highlighting the value and quality of our products to maintain patronage amidst these economic challenges.

Adapting to these changes, focusing on customer-centric approaches, and ensuring a diverse product range that caters to varying budget constraints have been integral in sustaining consumer interest and engagement within our retail businesses at Garden City Mall.

Could you elaborate on the strategies retailers are deploying to stay afloat in the market amidst these economic challenges?

Retailers are deploying multifaceted strategies to navigate and thrive amidst economic challenges. These strategies encompass several key areas:

* Diversification of Product Offerings: Retailers are diversifying their product portfolios to include a mix of essential goods and affordable options. This helps cater to varying consumer budgets and ensures a consistent flow of revenue even amidst fluctuating economic conditions.

* Cost Optimization Measures: Businesses are meticulously reviewing operational expenses, seeking areas for optimization without compromising on quality. This includes renegotiating supplier contracts, streamlining internal processes, and minimizing overhead costs where feasible.

* Emphasis on E-commerce and Digital Presence: The digital landscape has become pivotal. Retailers are bolstering their online presence, investing in e-commerce platforms, and enhancing digital marketing efforts to reach a wider audience and tap into the growing trend of online shopping.

* Localized Sourcing and Production: To mitigate the impact of currency fluctuations and import-related challenges, retailers are exploring localized sourcing and production options. This move aids in reducing dependency on imported goods and ensures a more stable supply chain.

* Customer-Centric Approach: Prioritizing customer experience and satisfaction remains paramount. Retailers are focusing on personalized services, loyalty programs, and after-sales support to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

* Flexible Pricing Strategies: Dynamic pricing models, promotional discounts, and strategic pricing adjustments are being employed to entice consumers without compromising profitability.

* Sustainability Initiatives: Embracing sustainable practices not only resonates with environmentally conscious consumers but also helps in cost-saving measures in the long run. Retailers are adopting eco-friendly practices and products where feasible.

By adopting a multi-pronged approach that combines agility, innovation, cost-efficiency, and a keen understanding of evolving consumer behaviours, retailers can better weather economic challenges and sustain growth in the competitive market landscape.

What do you foresee as the future trends or innovations in the retail sector, and how are you preparing to adapt to these changes?

In the evolving landscape of the retail sector, several key trends and innovations are shaping the future:

* Personalization and Customer Experience: Tailoring services and products to individual preferences will be crucial. We’re investing in data analytics to better understand consumer behaviour, enabling us to offer personalized experiences and recommendations.

* Tech-Driven Innovations: Innovations like cashier-less checkout systems are on our radar. We’re evaluating and implementing technologies that

enhance efficiency and elevate the shopping experience.

* Community Engagement and Localized Offerings: Strengthening ties with the local community and offering unique, locally sourced products are trends we foresee. We’re collaborating with local artisans and vendors to provide exclusive offerings that resonate with our customer base.

To adjust to these changes, we’re proactively investing in technology upgrades, talent development, and fostering a culture of innovation within Garden City Mall. By remaining agile, responsive to market shifts, and anticipating consumer preferences, we aim to position ourselves as a forward-thinking retail destination that meets the evolving needs of our customers.

How did your role as the Head of Mall contribute to the growth and success of Spar Mall in Enugu, Calabar, and Port Harcourt?

As the Head of Mall for Spar Mall in Enugu, Calabar, and Port Harcourt, my role was instrumental in driving growth and ensuring the success of these locations. I focused on several key areas that significantly contributed to the malls’ achievements:

* Strategic Planning and Expansion: I spearheaded strategic planning initiatives that facilitated the expansion of Spar Mall into multiple locations. This involved thorough market research, feasibility studies, and the development of expansion strategies tailored to each location’s unique dynamics.

* Operational Excellence: I emphasized operational efficiency by implementing standardized processes, optimizing resources, and ensuring a seamless and customer-centric experience across all Spar Mall branches. This dedication to operational excellence enhanced overall productivity and customer satisfaction.

* Tenant and Stakeholder Management: Effective tenant and stakeholder management were paramount. I fostered strong relationships with tenants, negotiated favourable agreements, and ensured their success within the malls, contributing to a vibrant and diverse retail ecosystem.

* Innovation and Customer Engagement: Driving innovation and enhancing customer engagement were focal points. I introduced innovative marketing campaigns, customer loyalty programs, and experiential initiatives to create a compelling shopping experience, thereby attracting and retaining a loyal customer base.

* Adaptability and Market Responsiveness: Remaining agile and responsive to market changes was essential. I continuously monitored market trends, adapted strategies accordingly, and introduced new offerings to meet evolving consumer preferences.

Through these efforts, my role as the Head of Mall played a pivotal part in establishing Spar Mall as a prominent retail destination across Enugu, Calabar, and Port Harcourt.

As the Managing Director of Garden City Mall, how did you manage to achieve such high booking rates before its opening, making it one of the most sought-after malls?

As the Managing Director of Garden City Mall, achieving high booking rates and establishing it as one of the most sought-after malls involved a multi-faceted approach:

* Strategic Positioning

* Compelling Value Proposition

* Early Engagement and Marketing

* Tenant-Friendly Approach

* Creating Anticipation

By meticulously orchestrating these initiatives and fostering strong relationships with potential tenants through personalized approaches, we successfully garnered high booking rates and established Garden City Mall as a desirable destination even before its opening, laying the foundation for its success.

Could you highlight some successful initiatives or strategies you’ve implemented that significantly contributed to the growth and success of your retail businesses?

Certainly. Several successful initiatives and strategies have significantly contributed to the growth and success of Garden City Mall and other retail ventures:

* Tenant Mix and Partnerships: Curating a diverse and attractive tenant mix has been pivotal. Strategic partnerships with renowned local and international brands, along with unique offerings, have enhanced the mall’s appeal and foot traffic.

* Customer-Centric Approach: Prioritizing customer experience has been central. We’ve focused on providing exceptional service, organizing engaging events, and creating an inviting ambience to ensure a memorable shopping experience.

* Innovative Marketing Campaigns: Implementing innovative marketing campaigns and promotional events has boosted visibility and attracted a wider audience. Leveraging digital marketing, social media, and targeted advertising has been instrumental in reaching and engaging with our customers effectively.

* Adaptability and Flexibility: Staying adaptable to market changes and consumer preferences has been crucial. We’ve continually adapted our offerings, services, and strategies to meet evolving demands and trends.

* Community Engagement and CSR: Active community engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives have fostered goodwill. Supporting local causes and engaging with the community has not only enhanced our brand reputation but also strengthened ties with our customer base.

* Technology Integration: Embracing technology to enhance operational efficiency and customer convenience has been a priority. This includes implementing digital solutions for inventory management, enhancing online shopping experiences, and exploring innovations like contactless payments.

These initiatives collectively underscore a commitment to excellence, innovation, customer satisfaction, and community engagement, contributing significantly to the growth and enduring success of our retail businesses at Garden City Mall and beyond.

What are the primary factors driving customer loyalty and satisfaction in your retail establishments?

The primary factors driving customer loyalty and satisfaction within our retail establishments at Garden City Mall revolve around several key elements:

* Exceptional Customer Service: We prioritize delivering exceptional customer service, ensuring that every interaction, from browsing to purchase and after-sales support, is a positive and personalized experience.

* Product Quality and Variety: Offering high-quality products and a diverse range of options caters to varying preferences and needs, fostering trust and satisfaction among our customers.

* Engaging Shopping Experience: Creating an engaging and immersive shopping environment through events, entertainment, and well-designed spaces adds value beyond transactions, encouraging repeat visits.

* Convenience and Accessibility: Providing convenience through accessible locations, ample parking, and easy navigation facilitates a hassle-free shopping experience, enhancing customer satisfaction.

* Loyalty Programs and Incentives: Implementing loyalty programs and offering incentives or rewards for repeat purchases encourage customer retention and reinforce their loyalty to our establishments.

* Community Engagement and Responsiveness: Engaging with the local community, actively listening to feedback, and swiftly addressing concerns or suggestions demonstrate our commitment to customer needs and preferences.

By consistently prioritizing these factors, we aim to foster strong relationships with our customers, ensuring their satisfaction and loyalty while positioning Garden City Mall as a preferred retail destination in Port Harcourt.

In the context of the retail industry, how do you balance offering choice, quality, freshness, value, and rewards to your customers?

In the retail industry, achieving a balance between offering choice, quality, freshness, value, and rewards to customers is a strategic endeavour that involves several approaches:

* Curating Diverse Offerings: We prioritize offering a diverse range of products, ensuring ample choices across various categories to cater to diverse preferences and needs.

* Emphasis on Quality and Freshness: Maintaining stringent quality control measures and sourcing from reputable suppliers ensures that the products offered meet high standards of quality and freshness, earning trust and satisfaction from customers.

* Value-Oriented Pricing: Striking a balance between competitive pricing and quality allows us to offer value-for-money propositions, ensuring that customers perceive they are getting both quality and affordability.

* Loyalty and Reward Programs: Implementing loyalty programs, discounts, and rewards for frequent shoppers incentivizes repeat visits and purchases, enhancing the overall value proposition for customers.

* Continuous Innovation: Constantly innovating by introducing new products, incorporating customer feedback, and staying abreast of market trends helps us maintain relevance and continually improve our offerings.

Balancing these elements involves a delicate interplay, where customer preferences, market dynamics, and operational capabilities align to deliver a holistic shopping experience that encompasses choice, quality, freshness, value, and rewards for our customers at Garden City Mall.

Amidst industry recognition and awards, what are the key elements that distinguish your retail businesses in a competitive market?

Within a competitive market, the key elements that distinguish our retail businesses at Garden City Mall are:

* Exceptional Customer Experience: We prioritize delivering an exceptional customer experience through personalized services, a welcoming ambience, and engaging events, ensuring our customers feel valued and appreciated.

* Strategic Tenant Mix: Curating a diverse and attractive tenant mix, blending renowned local and international brands with unique offerings, sets us apart as a destination offering a wide array of choices for consumers.

* Innovative Marketing and Engagement: Our focus on innovative marketing strategies, digital engagement, and community-focused initiatives distinguishes us, enhancing our visibility and fostering deeper connections with our audience.

* Commitment to Quality: Upholding high standards of quality in products, services, and facilities reinforces trust and sets a benchmark for excellence within the retail industry.

* Adaptability and Innovation: Remaining agile and innovative, swiftly adapting to market changes and consumer trends, ensures that we consistently offer fresh and relevant experiences to our customers.

* Sustainable Practices: Our commitment to sustainability and ethical business practices resonates with consumers increasingly prioritizing environmentally friendly and socially responsible brands.

These elements collectively contribute to our differentiation within the competitive retail landscape, enabling Garden City Mall to stand out, garner industry recognition, and maintain a strong position as a preferred retail destination in Port Harcourt.

We have noticed a recent expansion of HyperCity supermarket in Port Harcourt. The latest you opened had Governor Wike, the ex-governor of PH and many other special dignitaries. Why the choice of PH in your latest expansion?

The choice to expand HyperCity Supermarket into Port Harcourt was a strategic decision grounded in several factors:

* Market Potential: Port Harcourt represents a burgeoning market with significant growth potential in the retail sector. The city’s economic vibrancy, population demographics, and consumer spending patterns made it an attractive location for expansion.

* Demand for Quality Retail: There’s an increasing demand for high-quality retail experiences and a diverse range of products in Port Harcourt. HyperCity’s reputation for quality offerings and customer-centric approach aligns well with the city’s evolving retail landscape.

* Strategic Location: Selecting Port Harcourt as the site for the latest expansion was likely influenced by the identification of strategic locations that maximize visibility, accessibility, and potential foot traffic.

Overall, the choice to expand HyperCity Supermarket into Port Harcourt reflects a strategic move to tap into a thriving market, cater to the demands of discerning consumers, and establish a strong foothold in the city’s retail landscape.

HyperCity is really doing well at a time when inflation figures continue to rise and economic downturns increase. What is the secret behind this consistent growth?

HyperCity’s consistent growth during a period of rising inflation and economic downturn can be attributed to our consistently delivering value, prioritizing customer needs, maintaining operational efficiency, and being adaptable to market dynamics, HyperCity sustains its growth trajectory even amidst challenging economic circumstances.

As the managing director of HyperCity, How do you balance the price of products in Hypercity with the cost of commodities such that people are still able to afford your products and you remain profitable at the same time?

Balancing affordability for customers with profitability is a delicate balance that involves careful cost management, strategic pricing, and a deep understanding of market dynamics. Through a combination of these strategies, we aim to ensure that customers can afford our products while maintaining our business’s profitability and sustainability.

Any plans to expand beyond PH in the near future?

Yes, we intend to expand.