Saturday, November 6, 2010


Malls thrive as old shopping haunts get lost in neglect
Customers Keep Off Areas Riddled With Traffic Blocks, Garbage & Slush

ON THURSDAY afternoon, shoppers had a tough time entering Chickpet market. Apart from the crowd which almost carried you along, there was slush which was almost ankle-deep in some places and uncollected garbage strewn all over the roads. Shoppers, who managed to wade through this, could walk into pocket-sized shops situated almost on the roads, haggle with the shopkeepers and strike a good bargain. Many of the favourite shopping zones like SP Road, Chickpet and Gandhi Bazaar speak of tales of filth and neglect, although they still manage to churn out business worth crores. The city, which embraced the IT revolution, has seen a shift in the shopping habits of its people. With the arrival of malls, many of the City’s populace prefer to drive down to marble-floored outlets where salesperson hover around and pamper them.
As a result, retailers like Vijay Kapadi, who run a kids garment shop in one of the lanes of Chickpet, where there is barely place for two people to walk side by side, have seen a 10-15% drop in business every year although volumes have risen. He now manages to get business worth 5-6 lakh a year and plans to set up another shop away from the bustle of Chickpet.
“I am setting up a shop in a more convenient area which has ample parking,” he says. On an average, 70 customers visit his shop, but hardly anyone buys the higher-priced apparels. “Customers hesitate to come here as there is no parking space. There is too much traffic due to which our upper class clientele has come down,” says Mr Kapadi. The only mode of access to this area is through autorickshaws and you may end up paying a much higher fare than the meter-charge. The market lanes of Chickpet, Avenue Road, and OTC Road — said to have over 25,000 shops — are not suited for those used to the comfort of their cars. Mr Kapadi, for one, commutes on a bike which he can tuck away in a narrow lane. Old shopping zones losing loyal customers
WHEN it rains, the drains here get clogged and water flows into the shops and basements,” said Lakshmi Narayan, who runs a 400 sq ft shop in Chikpet. Given these conditions, even loyal customers have stopped visiting as often as they used to.
It is a no-brainer as to why most people want to avoid this area and opt for an air-conditioned, dust-free shopping mall.
Till recently, these markets, despite being overcrowded with grossly inadequate parking space and fully encroached footpaths, continued to attract shoppers from the middle and upper strata. But this was before the mall culture came up.
With Forum Mall coming up in Bangalore in 2004, crowds started gravitating towards them. Garuda Mall and Forum have begun to draw customers from major markets within a 5-km radius, while Bangalore Central in Jayanagar and Gopalan Mall in Rajarajeshwari Nagar have already started hurting traditional markets in Basavanagudi and neighbouring places.
“Many youngsters prefer going to malls as they can shop and hang around in the same place,” said Shubhranshu Pani, MD, retail services, Jone Lang LaSalle, a real estate consultancy firm.
There are around seven new malls which are expected to come up across Bangalore, totalling 3 million sq ft, by the end of CY 2011. Currently, there are seven malls in the city, which witness a footfall of 25,000 on weekdays, while the number soars up to 50,000 during the weekend.
*****The irony of it all is that mall owners come to Chikpet to buy garments and sell the same AT a higher price. “Even though they can get the same stuff at lower prices, people prefer malls which have much better conditions,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, member of the Association of Karnataka Trade & Industry and wholesaler of a ready-made garment shop in Chikpet******
“If there were no malls, we could have got additional revenue and sold much more,” said Anil Lal, who runs an electronic shop on SP Road, famous for electronic products. He says the number of customers visiting his shop has dropped by almost 20% on an average.
Ashwath Narayan, 49, a business man, who sells LCD and computer products on SP Road has seen a 10% drop in business. “We are selling our products at a lower price as compared to market but even then business is low,” said Mr Narayan. He now supplies mostly to wholesalers and plans to tie up with big retail outlets to supply such products in bulk as an additional source of revenue. There are shops, barely 200 sq ft, which offer handset-makers to LCD shops to computer products. There are around 800 shops in SP Road in Bangalore which mainly sell computer parts and electronic goods such as LCD and DVDs. It had attracted people from all strata of the society to buy product which are sometime as much as 50% cheaper than the market price.
However, with dedicated retail outlets for electronic goods like Croma, eZone and Reliance Digital opening across the city, this electronic goods hub has met a similar fate. This market now mainly caters to people from Hubli, Dharwad and Bellary. The young Bangalore crowd seems to have moved to retail chains that guarantee original products and provide warranty.
Venkatesh Prabhu was forced to close his audio business and has started selling DVD/VCDs and various kind of adapters. “The audio market was dying, so I decided to become a wholesaler of other products. Around 90% of my products are sold to traders who buy products in bulk,” said Mr Prabhu, who has seen business dipping by as much as 20% in the last two years.
Similarly, at the heart of another major market, Gandhi Bazaar in Basavangudi, small traders face tough competition from modern retailers. “Small shop owners are facing a big threat from large retail shops. We need to connect with customers and be polite to them. Small traders are seeing a 10% drop in sales while the bigger merchants are growing,” said Basavanagudi Merchant Forum treasurer A Sharavana.
Mr Sharavana, who worked out of a jeweller shop, says personal connect with the customers help in increasing sales. He now operates two huge jewellery shops in Gandhi Bazaar and has adapted to the new change. “I train all my employees on how to speak politely to customers whether or not they buy products. If the traders do not adopt to change, they will slowly die,” said Mr Sharavana. Most of his customers are old residents of Basavanagudi.
The Gandhi Bazaar road has turned even narrower by the fruit and vegetable hawkers who sell on the road itself. “In the last few years, we have failed to attract any new customers. Many retailers buy products from us and sell it at double price by packaging it in a flashy way,” said Nagaraj, who runs a readymade garment shop in Gandhi Bazaar.

Busy customers on SP Road. Photo by N Narasimha Murthy

Sajjan Raj Mehta

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