Shoppers Stop: Being almost luxe

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It’s time to change and     start something new.’ And this is precisely what leading retailer Shoppers Stop seeks to say through its brand new communication on the premium apparel and accessories, while shaking away the 17-year-old look and donning a new avatar, but very much with the central theme of same Ebony & Ivory.  The store plans to invest Rs 20 crore for this image make-over. Shoppers Stop was founded in 1991.

The store that has always been considered to be serving the needs of the premium segment is now trying to chart its course up the ladder by trying to position itself as a brand that act as a “bridge to luxury”. And to unveil the new identity, the retailer chose none other than Shah Rukh Khan with whom the chain has launched a Bollywood apparel line inspired by his box office hit Om Shanti Om. The store has undergone an identity change as designed by the leading Bangalore-based design consultancy Ray & Keshavan, with a new logo, the symbol, and a new punch line in tow.

Touching upon the factors that made the store to go for a image make-over, consumer care associate and chief executive officer Govind Shrikhande explains, “in the past 17 years of the existence, the country on the whole has seen a lot of changes and with that the customers have also changed. So, we though that we should also evolve with the evolving customer.”
Shrikhande also says now a sizeable chunk of the shoppers are in their 20s and Shoppers Stop also views it important to remain relevant for this demographic. “A brand doesn’t have to change, but everyday it has to keep evolving. And only an evolving brand is always able to maintain that connect,” points out the chief executive. But, Shrikhande also stresses that the change is not skin-deep, but goes beyond the décor or some other fancy stuff, to reflect a shift in the whole philosophy of the company.

On zeroing on Shah Rukh Khan, Shrikande says, “we wanted a parallel for Shoppers Stop. So we thought there can be nobody more appropriate than Shah Rukh.”
Company general manager for marketing and communication s Sheetal Chowksi explains the phenomenon, citing very many reasons for the image make-over. “Shoppers Stop has always been a premium player, but with this new change, what we are trying to do is that we are creating a niche for ourselves by being above the premium and not exactly in the luxury segment,” explains Chowski.

Another reason that Chowski cites is the fact that consumers have undergone a sea change in the past decade, moving up the aspiration ladder and so the store also has to keep pace with that crucial change.

Explaining the idea behind the ‘Start something new’ punch line that the store has in its new-look, Shrikahnde says, “this philosophy is of providing a lifestyle change to the customer and making the transformation actually is achieved by starting something new.” The new baseline is an effort to encourage customers to take a step ahead and try to reach the next level. It encourages customers to go out of the box and do things that they have always wanted to but never had the time for, chips in Chowksi.

Talking about the new logo and the symbol that the store has come out, Shrikhande says, “earlier, it was more comfort, more warmth, and more trust; but now we are adding to that more fashion, and more dynamism. It is also giving us a more international look. That is what the new logo and the symbol is all about.” Chowksi explains that the store wants to do a lot more with the symbol as it wants to create a badge value for many more accessories like hand bags.

But, the new identity goes much beyond the logo change and a new tagline. Many a change can be seen taking effect on the shop-floor, creating a lot more touch-points, as Shrikhande puts it. One of the biggest attractions that the new-look Shoppers Stop outlets has is the provision of adding day-and-night lighting options in the trial rooms. This will be first of its kind experience conceptualised after consumer insighting with a view to help customers make a better decision about the apparel they choose to buy. Another first is the Shopper Stop Radio, an in-store radio format. Radio jockeys will discuss and advice on various fronts like education, apparel, accessories and other such aspects. Currently, it is the Western music that is finding favour, but the store chain also has plans to localise the tone and tenor of its radio offering in order to make it more relevant to the shoppers in varied geographies.
Another big platform that the company is banking to carry on the bridge to luxury motto is the shopping bags. The store has launched new bio-degradable shopping bags. Additionally, it also has come out with limited edition shopping bags donning a theme ranging from fashion to styles. Further, Shoppers Stop is also using its shopping bags as a platform for communication as they are being strategically placed inside the malls as a form of retail advertisement. “Our shopping bags are our signature bags. We have launched a line of limited edition bags. The touch points continue to reinforce the fact that we are a premium fashion house. To us shopping bags are the biggest medium,” is how Chowski explains the rationale for this change.

To improve in-store customer experience, the chain has also launched a ‘service excellence programme’ to ensure that the standards of customer care remain intact. Other touch-points include a change in the uniform and signage of the store that are now more international in look. Shrikhande opines, “every touch-point is important in evolution of a new philosophy and new thinking process. The way we think is the way we work. Some of the touch-points would be visible instantly while others would take a bit of time.”

Apart from this, the company is also focusing on CRM initiatives. “We have the county’s largest customer loyalty programme in the retail space. We have over a million customers and it is a well known fact they constitute 60 percent of our sales. We are running a scheme for our loyalty members. It is our way of saying thank you to these customers,” he smiles.

Apart from this, the chain, which has been  reporting declining sales and mounting losses, has also come out with an anthem for its employees titled, ‘Hadd se aage’ penned by Gulzar and sung by Sonu Nigam. The store is also getting involved in terms of creating environmentally aware shoppers and this is being done with Life, a private label of the store where it is inspiring people to plant trees.

On the communication part, the company has come up with an integrated marketing plan with Contract Advertising, the agency on record for the past 17 years. The retailer has also come back to print medium after a long hiatus. Thus television, out-of-home and print also figure prominantly apart form in-store promotions.

Shoppers Stop, operating 24 stores in a retail space 1.6 million sqft, is looking at scaling up the number of stores to 50, within the next three-five years. Around 10 of these stores are likely to come up during this year. The store also plans to take the outlets to tier-II towns and cities.

However, it has to be watched as to how the new-look will help the brand and company from the financial troubles it has been steeped in from quite some time. The K Raheja- owned Shoppers Stop, though is a pioneer in the modern retail business, has not been able to do financially well through most of its nearly two-decades existence and of late the group has been the subject of intense speculation that it is under the radar of many leading competitors for a takeover. In FY08, its loss came down marginally.

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