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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sameer Shaikh, Regional Head Buying & Merchandising, shares his insights on how Retailers are managing the current pandemic

With the Corona-virus crisis continuing to impact society, what role do you see mass retailers playing?
Retailers are playing a very significant role reducing movement of people and hence to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread, as the need for buying essentials will the trigger for people to move out of their houses or travel. People staying at home has led to an multifold increase in the consumption of household items, which also means that the frequency of buying will be higher too. Mass Retailers are acting as a savior right now as they are service providers who can fulfill the demand for these essential goods, while following WHO guidelines fully, with proper protection SOP against the virus. If the needs of the essentials are fulfilled, then people can stay at their home and need not expose themselves to the possibility of contacting any affected person.

Have you introduced any new product categories to meet existing demand?
No, starting something new is a time-consuming affair and this is not the time for it. I think most of the retailers would stick to the basics.

Do you see this as an opportunity to further increase the share of private labels in key essential categories?
Absolutely, Yes. These are ideal conditions for Private label to sell as they are filling the gap in market in terms of range or taste or price and covering for the unavailability of the product in the market. The later reason is more valid in the current scenario where there is a huge unfulfilled demand due to shortage of supplies from the brands. There is huge demand for private labels too, but as there is more flexibility, scope, width in production capacity gives the edge to fulfill the gap which is getting created. This in fact, is a superb opportunity where a retailer can ensure that their private label products reaches the dining table of a house which is one of the most difficult thing to do due to abundance of choices each consumer normally has.

Any measures adopted to ensure there is not much shortage in supply of essential goods?
Primary task was to get the approvals from local authorities to start the operations and it was the most difficult task to start with initially. Post that, from buying & merchandising point of view the areas where major changes were done were forecasting and replenishment and daily monitoring and improvement with detailed RCA within shortest time possible as “Time lost” is literally “customer lost & Money lost”.

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As the situation improves, what advice do you have for the private label industry?
According to me, some of the changes we are witnessing are here to stay. The demand for groceries very inelastic in nature normally. There will be huge demand which the retailer would have which needs to be fulfilled due to the supply gap created and retailers will be looking for partners who can meet their demands and manufacturers who would want partners to extend their current production line. So, it would be a win-win for everyone in the industry..

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