In what is considered to be extremely encouraging, retail chains across categories are opening new stores and newer formats during the pandemic, bringing a lot of cheer to the ecosystem while also encouraging others to not give up, sustain and innovate. Here are a few notable ones which are most recent.
Pothys, a department store chain which originated in the southern tip of Tamil Nadu at Tirunelveli several decades back and eponymous for it’s grand stores across Chennai and other cities announced the opening of a new format – to sell Jewellery! As one would imagine, the pandemic has thrown a sharp spoke on the “India Shining” story and Jewellers across the country missed several precious shopping occasions in the year 2020 and 2021 such as “Akshaya Thrithiya” and “Dhan Teras” apart from several muted “Muhurat” days through the past 15 years due to small-scale Marriages. While weddings contribute significantly for Jewellery Retailers, Gold shopping in India is more for a rainy day and is considered the safest investment, especially for the aspiring middle class which doesn’t take an easy bet on real estate, mutual funds or Equity markets.
Pothys Swarna Mahal, the exclusive jewellery retail store from the group which once had South Sensation and Padmashree Dr. Kamal Hassan as their Brand Ambassador shall open the centre at Tirunelveli, the family’s home town where they opened their first store too. This could be the first of many more to come going by the scale and speed of thr group which now caters to the entire household, akin to Wal-Mart selling everything from apparel to grocery products. Incidentally, Nalli Silks, which also has a 70 year legacy in India launched their gold retail stores several years back. Local giants such as GRT, Lalitha Jewellery, Thangamayil, AVR Swarna Mahal have each over 15-25 stores spread across the state while national chains such as Tata’s Tanishq & Kalyan Jewellers have a presence pan-India.
Croma, the country’s second largest electronics retail chain with around 200 stores opened their newest one recently at Latur, a Tier 3 town in Maharashtra. Not surprising that CDIT Retailers are now focussing on smaller towns due to a large population which living in metro cities, has migrated to their home towns due to the pandemic and on WFH mode! KFC opened a new outlet at Chandigarh while Pizza Hut opened a new one at Hyderabad, Nanded and Vishakapatnam. Lotto, a globally renowned footwear and accessories brand opened a new store at Gauhati and Dehradun. Chaayos, one of India’s largest tea-retail chains opened at a mall in Delhi where footfalls are back after all the chaos that reigned between Mar-May 2021. It’s been raining new store openings for many while some have shut down their stores recently due to unviable business conditions and uncertainty due to the pandemic.
In Chennai, the renowned neighborhood coffee vending chain “Madras Coffee House” opened a new store today while Madurai based “Suxus” which focuses on street fashion with abundant range and deep pricing shall open a new store later this week, also in the State capital. Specsmakers, an Optical Retail chain with over 250 stores across South India announced its plans to expand it’s network through franchising with a returns of 200% and an average payback period of 3 years. Recently, there was a scathing report in the local media that many restaurants are up for sale in Chennai as well as many part of the State and the Country, since the owners or franchisees didn’t see a glimmer of hope in the coming months to continue their business any further. WITCO, a retailer selling luggage and travel gear, popular across South India for the past 3 decades with a 50 year legacy, recently wound up their business as they found that there was no scope for an immediate travel and tourism industry recovery.
Overall, it seems to be a mixed bag for retailers. Those who shall survive and thrive are those who choose to innovate while many others will have no choice left other than to perish. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and blaming the Government for poor economic support are easy choices to propose but there is a silver lining from those thousands of Entrepreneurs and Business houses who are finding newer ways not just to survive but also to grow. Kudos to them. May your tribe increase.