Monday, June 29, 2009

Not the end of the rack. Part I

Article written by me for the magazine “Indian Management”, June 2009

There are gloom and doom stories about Corporate Indian Retail everyday and just as it was in the stock market crash, everyone wants to stand up and claim, I told you so! But, is it really the end of the great Indian Retail story? I don’t think so.

Store Level Reality

The stores are being closed for very valid reasons which are linked to making the Retail model viable.

The store is a key OPEX component and as such the cost structure of each store is crucial to the success of any Retailer. In India, the typical margins that a supermarket would realize is in the range of 18 - 19% and three of the biggest cost components are rent, manpower and energy costs. These should ideally be in the range of 12 - 13%. However, over the past years the rental costs alone have risen to as high as 7 - 8% in many cases. Coupled with the other components the top three cost components today typically totals up to 15 - 16%. Which means that the store is either losing money or the positive contribution is not large enough to sustain the other common costs being apportioned.

This steep escalation in the rental component is a direct consequence of supply and demand. With so many mega plans having been announced and location being a supposedly crucial factor, what else can one expect?

So, the first take out is that at a store level, if the cost structure does not make sense no amount of any other corrective action will make up for that.

The downturn and the falling demand in real estate is an excellent opportunity to correct the initial mistake of indiscriminate store opening without regard for high rentals. The chains are renegotiating rentals and right sizing stores to make the cost structure workable.

The cost structure is linked to projected or estimated sales. All the percentages I mentioned before have a common base. That is the optimum sale that is required for a store to be sustainable. Typically supermarkets used to generate an average of Rs. 1,000 per sq. ft. per month and this became the benchmark for developing the supermarket model. However, nowadays the typical average in a supermarket is in the range of Rs. 700 with the lower end of the spectrum touching even Rs. 450.

The simplistic solution is to realign costs to this sales figure, so that percentages remain the same. However, it’s easier said than done, especially for cost components like rentals, which is being done by most Retailers.

The other option is to increase either the sales or the margins which is the tougher thing to achieve, because there are several very valid reasons for low sales, one being oversaturation of similar stores in a locality. So, the closing or down or right sizing of stores is possibly the most prudent activity in the current context and reflects that corporate Retail not only knows what needs to be done, but is acting on that.


Blue Moon said...

Hello! Sir,

This post is very lucid & I genuinely enjoyed reading it.
I read your article “Don’t go by a formula to succeed”(published in Hindustan Times,30-06-2009), & I must admit that it was SIMPLY SPLENDID. You very creatively described how an individual can frame his success mantra & be successful. I am thrilled by your article & would love to read your other posts too.

I would be looking forward to your responses on my blog, its:

Please leave your comments on my blog, I’ll be eagerly waiting.

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Good luck…..


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