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Retailers match wits over online shopping

By Ishita Ayan Dutt & Avishek Rakshit |Kolkata| Business Standards | Vjmedia Works | March 19, 2015

It was meant to be a discussion on omnichannel retailing, but the fashion forum turned a debate between online and offline retailers

It was meant to be a discussion on omnichannel retailing, but the fashion forum held in the city turned into a debate between online and offline retailers.

"We are five times what we were in last January. We are seeing double-digit growth month-on-month. Because we are building distribution capacities, we now have a presence in 5,000-plus cities." said Amit Maheshwari, head of the fashion business of Snapdeal.com, at the inauguration of India Fashion Forum 2015. Govind Shrikhande, managing director of Shoppers Stop, took a dig: "In our business, we are bothered about the return on capital. In those businesses (e-commerce), it is a race about going down."

Asked about the impact of e-commerce on bricks-and-mortar retailing, Kabir Lumba, managing director, Lifestyle International, said, "In two years, we have seen double digit like-to-like growth across three of our formats." The Dubai-based Lifestyle International runs a retail chain by the name and a value chain, Max.

Shrikhande said the growth was slowing in organised bricks-and-mortar retailing. While Maheshwari said returns were 15 per cent in the online clothing business, B S Nagesh, founder of TRRAIN, pointed out these were 1.5-three per cent in the organised retail business.

Stating in a lighter vein that online companies be conferred non-governmental organisation (NGO) status, Lumba said, "Online is not a threat but an outcome of technology. The relation will be of compatibility. They will transfer or offload some of the 5x growth in business to organised retail." Thomas Vetter, senior vice-president and global head of consumer industries for SAP, said the consumer's journey started on the Web before deciding to buy online or offline.

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