"By 2010, 90 percent of consumer products (in the US) will be home-delivered. Mothers will give children lists so they can shop for the family's groceries and other necessities over the Internet." - prediction by trends expert Faith Popcorn
Magar yeh hai India. And here, folks are willing to stand in line for an hour on a Sunday evening to check out a cartful of groceries. I landed up at the local Food Bazaar by mistake this weekend in search of cherries. And made a hasty exit from what appeared to be Virar station at rush hour!
It's all so new and exciting, being able to touch-feel-choose products of vast range and variety in air conditioned comfort. The visit to the local foodmart has become the middle class family's new weekend 'outing'. A substitute for the local temple/ Chowpatty.
Especially since - for reasons beyond my understanding - many malls hold 'events' on weekends. The most popular being putting up a stage where tiny tots can jump around to the tunes of the latest Bollywood numbers.
Like website hits were in the dotcom era, so footfalls are sacred in the megamall era. Never mind if most of these feet just come, lurk and linger, eat an 8 buck icecream at Mac and go home satisfied.
The theory being that ek baar chaska lag gaya to baar baar ayenge. Aur kuch na kuch to kharidenge hi.
This is where the grocery shops come in. Buying kirana is the one aspect of shopping that is the housewife's birthright. Which husband can say no to a wife demanding to be taken to shop for her monthly quota of Surf-sabudana and Sanifresh.
Grocery shopping is thus the perfect, guilt-free excuse for visiting the mall. Further, the foodmarts give you the impression of 'big savings'. Which may be true -but only to an extent.
The local Dmart sells 2 kgs of Tide at Rs 87 and claims you save Rs 15. My kiranawala delivered it home and charged Rs 88. The 15 rupee off deal is being offered by P & G - not the retailer. But the way it's advertised, you go home feeling happy about being a wise, thrifty shopper.
Two Kinds of Buyers
Local kiranawalas are under 'threat' from hypermarts but they won't just roll over and die so easily. Because there is a growing segment of customers which will - as Popcorn suggests - require home delivery.
Yuppie singles, couples for whom time is money - they are going to simply pick up the phone and order whatever is needed, whenever it's needed. The large chains also home deliver but not in 10 minutes flat. And not 2 packets of milk.
However, for 10% of their needs these folks will also visit hypermarts because they are becoming places to shop at for interesting new products.
This evening I bought 200-300 bucks worth of stuff more on impulse than need. Stuff which caught my attention and seemed worth trying out including...
Palmolive aromatherapy shower cream (very attractive packaging, smelt nice too)
MTR macaroni and veg chatpata sauce (ready to eat thingie which looked intriguing)
Nestle lassi (didn't know they had lassi! Very nice - will definitely buy again!)
'High Range' strawberry preserve (never heard of brand but label explained this was a product of 'Project Dare' which educates underprivileged kids. So thought... why not try)
I also noticed that Cadbury's has come out with a chocolate sauce (like Hershey's) and there's a new snack called Bollywood bites (packed in Pringles type cans). Neither of these products has been advertised. But a good display in a hypermart is enough to at least induce trials.
Bottomline: If you like to keep in touch with what's new, hypermarts are fun. But visit on weekdays wonly. For everything else, cultivate your friendly neighbourhood kirana shop. He may not accept Visa or Mastercard, but his service and efficiency is priceless.