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Shopping under one roof and pleasurable, too


A busy department store. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam.

The concept of super market or a department store---mistakenly called 'departmental stores' by many---wherein the consumer can buy a good number of items under one roof and in a hassle-free ambience, came into vogue when the Spencer Group set up a chain of such retail outlets in the then big metros like Madras, Bombay and Calcutta.

In the 1960s, various State Governments floated cooperative super markets or super bazaars, when certain consumer goods became scarce leading to blackmarketing by unscrupulous traders. Foremost among such cooperative ventures is the 'Apna Bazaar', followed by Sharkari Bhandar in Mumbai.

Super markets sell practically everything from corn flakes to rasgollas to pickles and thread and needle to white goods or consumer durables. They make brisk business by offering various schemes which, in turn, keep ringing their cash registers.

The earliest such venture of Vizag, the Karachiwala Department Stores was set up near One Town Police Station in 1947 by the father of N.C.Mohan, its present owner. Probably it can claim to be the trend-setter in this line of business. ''In 1985 my brother shifted it to the trendy Siripuram area, and since then it is a runaway success,'' he says.

All the items are eye-catchingly displayed in this mart. This is complemented by a personalised interaction with the customers making their shopping experience pleasurable. Rarely people come with lists, and the shopping is instinctive. And the few who come in with a list on hand are seen walking out with many a thing which are unlisted.

This is a favourite haunt of foreign seafarers who can often be seen conversing with Mohan. ''We will be expanding our business in the first floor by offering vegetables, fruits, gift items and electronic goods like TV, washing machines, etc.

The main store of Trinetra, the latest competitor of Karachiwala and which has a network of marts in different localities, has an edge over the latter in that it has a large parking lot, thanks to its convenient location in the Siripuram junction. Fresh fruits and vegetables greet the custome as he or she steps into its cool environ. Its manager, Vasudeva Rao, says: ''We set up our first branch in April 2001 near Gurdwara junction and within a span of six months our branch network has expanded to six. Ours is a limited company and we offer all the items---A to Z. We have a scheme for our customers who can win a gift from Rs.10 onwards every month.

People who come to buy provisions end up buying gifts, fancy jewellery, cosmetics, etc.

Narasimha Raju of the Nilgiris, which is a franchise of the famous Nilgiris of Bangalore, says: ''People come to us because of our customer service. We specialise in bakery products and all instant foods, and some special bakery items come from Bangalore. Very soon we will be setting up bakeries in Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Bhimavaram, Kaikalur and Vijayawada.''

According to Bhojaraju of the MVP Supermarket Stores, theirs is a one-stop shop for buying various wares. He claims that it is one of the biggest super markets in South India with five floors, offering readymades, home appliances, gift articles and provisions. ''To boost our business we have introduced the MVP Value Price Card whereby a customer gains a point for every Rs.20 of the value of things he or she has purchased, and when the points pile up from 1,250 to 10,000 points, gifts worth Rs 500 to Rs 10,000 are given, based on the number of points recorded in the card,'' he says.

The Super Bazaar, opposite Turner's Choultry, run by the Visakhapatnam Cooperative Central Stores Limited, is another major department stores of the city and a pioneer in this line as a cooperative. During festival season, attractive discounts are given to customers. The Super Bazaar is the most sought after shopping place during Deepavali, for crackers with over 50 per cent discount.

Thanks to the advent of this under-one-roof concept, even small time kirana shops are slowly graduating to become department stores in their own way.

PUSHPA BHARGAVA

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