Trends in Retail Formats

Retail industry is continuously going through changes on account of liberalization, globalization and consumer preferences. While multinational retail chains are looking for new markets, manufacturers are identifying, redefining, or evolving new retail formats. The existing retail houses are also gearing up to face the emerging competition from the organized sector and the changing outlook of the consumers. For example, consumer spending is shifting from goods to services. Accordingly the retailers too are fast adjusting to the changing consumer preferences.

Consumers are not only looking for the core products or functional benefits from the retailers but also the non-functional benefits, which need to be compatible with their lifestyles. For example, most of the traditional eating joints in India such as Haldiram, Bikaner and Sagar Ratna have revised their product offerings and atmospherics on the lines of the multinational chains to compete with them and to serve changed expectations of the consumers.

Mom-and-pop Stores and Traditional Kirana Stores

The retail sector is changing as new store categories have started dominating the marketplace. Mass merchandisers (Wal-Mart, Big Bazaar), discount clubs (Subhiksha), so-called category killers (Home Depot, Vishal chain), and speciality retailers (Time Zone, Tanishq) have all developed a successful retail models. At the same time, the small mom-and-pop stores and the traditional department stores, are finding the competition intense. In 2002, while Wal-Mart and Target saw revenues grow (by 12% and 10%, respectively), department stores such as Saks and Federated experienced declining revenues (down 3% and 1% respectively). But even in the mass-merchandising segment, the competition is fierce, as is evidenced by Kmart’s bankruptcy announcement in 2002. Small independent stores, across product categories, is a very common retail formats they are also undertaking large scale renovations to appeal and attract their target consumer segments.


The amount of retail business being conducted on the Internet is growing every year. Indeed, Forrester Research Agency projects e-commerce revenue to rise to $123 billion in 2004, an increase of some 28% over the previous year and for e-tailing to comprise a bigger slice of the overall retail pie (5.6%, up from 4.5% in 2003). Many major retail organizations and manufacturers have online retail stores. Companies like and First and, which helped pioneer the retail e-commerce concept, are now being followed by bricks-and-mortar and catalogue retailers like J. Crew, which are expanding retail e-commerce into new markets.

Department Stores

A few years ago, names like Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and Montgomery Ward dominated malls and downtowns all over America. Over the last decade or so, however, these department stores have suffered badly. In part, this is a result of changing shopping patterns and increased competition from discount stores. It has also come from financial burdens incurred by companies that acquired competing companies and grew too fast. It is unlikely that these players will disappear from the market. However, they should be ready to expect more bumps as the strong get stronger and the weak get absorbed.

Discount Stores

These are giants such as Wal-Mart (the largest retailer in the world, with more than a million; employees), Target and Kmart, as well as membership warehouses, such as Costco. These, along with the category killers, have changed the landscape of both the retail industry and America. Where once mom-and-pop and department stores dominated retail, now the discount retailers and category killers are at the top of the heap. And where once shopping malls, anchored by at least one major department store; used to be the dominant retail presence lining the nation’s roads, now it is the behemoth Wal-Marts and Home Depots.

Category Killers

These are the giant retailers that dominate one area of merchandise (e.g., Office Depot, Tower Records and The Sports Authority). They are able to buy bathroom tiles, file cabinets, electronic goods or pet food in such huge volumes that they can then sell them at prices even fairly large competitors cannot match. The future of this category is better than that of many of the more general discounters, but the same employment caveats apply. For most job seekers, these companies offer earn-and-learn experiences with vendors and distributors before they move onward and upward.

Specialty Stores

These include Crate & Barrel, the Body Shop, and Victoria’s Secret. These stores concentrate on one type of merchandise and offer it in a manner that makes it special. Some are very high-end (Louis Vuitton) while others cater to the price-conscious masses (Old Navy). Many are so successful that department stores have started to emulate their buying, marketing, and merchandise display strategies. Industry experts predict growth in this segment, particularly in home furnishings and home improvement, and it seems to attract many of the best and brightest in retail. Promotion and responsibility come quickly to those willing to work hard, and in many of these stores the hand of bureaucracy is not heavy.


While most retailers have online storefronts, strictly online purveyors with no bricksand- mortar counterparts are hoping to snare a percentage of the retail profit. Major players, such as, have generated enough business to cause top brick-and mortar competitors to come up with their own Internet sites. Traditional retailers like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, hugely successful in their own right, have also set up online stores so as not to miss out on the revenue opportunities that the Interned offers.

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