labels: retail, marketing - general
Small retailers strike back: Organise dry fruit festival to counter mallsnews
23 August 2007

Mumbai: It may seem experimental, but a small section of Mumbai-based retail traders have decided do something that can be replicated by small local traders in different parts of the country, across major food commodities.

The Mumbai Mewa Masala Merchants Association, a little known trade body outside the city''s trading hotspots, comprises around 60 traders who deal mainly in dry fruits. They have their retail outlets concentrated in the Masjid Bunder area, a few minutes drive from downtown Fort area in South Mumbai.

For the first time, the association is launching what it calls a mega shopping festival to aggressively market dry fruits over an extended period of over 10 weeks, i.e. 25 August to 14 November, which coincides with a series of major Indian festivals such as Ganesh Chathurthi, Navrathri and Diwali, during which the demand for dry fruits sees an exponential expansion.

This festival is a clear strike against the new age retail format malls as the small Dry fruit retailers perceive mushrooming shopping malls a threat to their business. A shopping festival is a sure-fire way to attract customers and promote sales, they feel.

Traditional retail traders in the dry fruits business argue that they are better equipped than malls to meet the specific needs of discerning customers, on account of highly personalised service, and the sheer variety (different qualities, grades, sizes, prices) they offer. Malls, on the other hand, score on visibility, but have a limited range of products.

The average price of products at the mewa festival is assured to be almost 30 per cent lower than the product line up at malls. Clearly, small retailers are set to score on product variety, and personalised service, in the face of pressure on their profit margins. They are also set to do one more thing - convert the traditional dry fruit retail shopping experiences into a more pleasant and friendly one.

The commercial Masjid Bunder area in Mumbai, home to virtually the metro''s entire wholesale market till recently, has a history dating back almost 200 years. It was the wholesale market for several other commodities, until most wholesale markets were shifted across the harbour to the twin city Navi Mumbai''s Vashi area in the ''80s and the ''90s to help decongest the metro.

The 60-odd mewa (dry fruit) merchants have been in business for generations, and have decided to add some aggressiveness to their sales pitch. Customer trust and confidence, parameters largely unaddressed by modern retail formats, are something that these small retailers specialise in, having developed their goodwill over generation, which they believe will stand them in good stead.

Attractively decorated shops, lucky draws, and cash prizes further sweeten the deal for customers who do decide to give up the airconditioned, clinically clean malls for a more authentic ''Indian - bazaar'' experience.

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Small retailers strike back: Organise dry fruit festival to counter malls