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‘COVID-19 is teaching Indian consumers to be restrained in their spending’

Rakesh Jallipally, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Polo Association and Flying Machine

Rakesh Jallipally“Right now people are looking at essentials like staples and household supplies. That is at the top of their list. Apparel or fashion may be fifth or sixth item on the list. But all said and done from our personal experience, we have opened a few stores since and seen there is demand, people are coming in. Indeed, walk-ins are less but whoever has come in are decisive and buying. The world is not over according to me for apparel or fashion retail. There is enough optimism. Basically we need try to and reach out to our consumers because there is a need. It might be latent at this point of time because it is not essential but if we keep reaching out to them I’m sure demand will come back though it might take some time.”

Every adversity they say offers a new opportunity to grow and learn. The two months of lockdown that the Indian government imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 is teaching Indian consumers to be restrained in their spending. “Consumers have now started thinking about their priorities and are spending only on those,” explained Rakesh Jallipally, Chief Operating Officer, Arvind Fashions, U.S. Polo Association and Flying Machine Brand at Webinar #2 organized by DFU Publications-DFU LIVE in association with TRRAIN on the subject: Changes in Consumer Behaviour & Preferences, Post Covid-19 on the theme ‘Consumer Bulao, Retailer Jitao’ (Spiking Consumption, Winning the Customer Back).

Pandemic add to apprehensions

Jallipally explained almost 50 per cent of people are worried about their future income. “As per a BCG research, 43 per cent consumers were already apprehensive about their future incomes due to the recession. COVID-19 has only added to their apprehension. This apprehension coupled with the fear of contracting the disease is preventing them from entering stores.” Elaborating on changing consumer behavior, Jalllipally said, “People are opting for online shopping due to the convenience and safety it offers.”

And to deal with this change, he advised retailers to “adopt an integrated approach by combining online and offline offerings.” One way this can be done is by adapting and adopting new technologies. “We should tell our consumers that coming to the store or staying at home and still shopping from the store can be convenient for them,” he stated. “New shopping techniques we can adopt include: hyperlocal deliveries and contactless deliveries.”

Home or store-based appointments

Highlighting the second clear trend that is emerging he said, people today don’t want to spend much time outside for shopping. “Hence, we should look at home or store-based appointments. Stores can space out their employees and customers in such a way that their staff is able to visit customers’ homes and provide them with an e-catalogue to select required goods. This will give them the confidence that the store is being cleaned in a continuous manner and is a safe and healthy place to shop. The third trend is that they want a healthy environment to shop, so we really need to think as retailer how we can create that environment and create that confidence in the consumer, showing them that the store is a healthy space to shop,” Jallipally observed.

Social media channels to boost turnout

Another way retailers can increase their visitor turnout is by creating videos to show how the shop is actually being maintained, he said. “We should now ideally use the digital media, maybe WhatsApp, Facebook or social media to convey that message,” he opined. Henceforth, customers who walk-in will be decisive shoppers, “There won’t be any impulse buying or window shopping,” he viewed.

This gives retailers a good chance to improve their KPIs. They can create more availability of core and relevant products in their stores. As consumers are currently focusing on stocking only essentials and household supplies; apparel and fashion features fifth or sixth in their list of priorities. “Hence, we need to reach out to our consumers and ease their shopping experience. This will convince them that even apparel shopping is essential and create more demand,” Jallipally summed up.

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