Retailers Mahindra group, Godrej Interio, Reliance Retail hire specialists to up sales

22 Feb,2012

By Writankar Mukherjee


Whenever Mahindra Group decides to set up a new store for its speciality mother and child retail venture Mom & Me, it first looks out for ‘super moms and dads’ . These are experienced parents or grandparents who have the experience of raising a child and can offer customers, especially first-time parents, advice on choosing the right product and its usage.


At last count, the Mahindras had appointed more than 60 super moms and dads across India, at a much higher salary than what its customer care executives earn. In the process, it is reaping huge business benefits. The conversion at the Mom & Me stores is more than 50 per cent, double the industry average.

Conversion rate is the measure of the number of people who visit a shop making a purchase – a key indicator of a store’s success.


“The last-mile service helps in increasing conversions, especially in tough times like this,” said Saloni Nangia, president of management consultancy Technopak Advisors. “The consumer experience also improves, and it builds a long lasting connect with them. In fact, such specialised talent will guide buyers to meet their specific requirements so that they are satisfied,” she added.


In an emerging trend in the country’s Rs 20,000-crore organised retail sector, retailers are increasingly hiring specialists who can influence shoppers, provide personalised shopping advice and thereby increase conversion. As a result, shop floor jobs, earlier reserved for plus-two and general stream graduates, are now seeing a growing influx of specialized graduates or domain experts.


Retailers see such specialised shop floor employees as critical to success in the current economic scenario, when consumer sentiments are down. Key retail categories like apparel, furniture and electronics are seeing far less trading, prompting retailers to spice up demand backed up by heavy discounts and promotions.


Several studies have said consumer sentiments have been down for the past two to three quarters due to rising interest cost and inflation, though it improved in the urban markets from mid-January.


Diamond jewellery chain, Orra, has started appointing designers at the shop floor to help customers in their purchase decision. The company has also started an extensive training programme for such designers on the various types of jewellery, gold and other precious stones.


The company has hired one designer for each of its 33 stores. “The conversion rate has jumped by 10 per cent. We are now planning to increase the number of such specialised designers in the shop floor,” said CEO Vijay Jain. A 10per cent jump in conversion is no mean number, considering the per sq ft revenue in jewellery retailing is one of the highest in retail, as much as Rs20,000 per sq ft per month.


Godrej Group’s furniture retailing arm, Godrej Interio has started training its existing shop floor employees on interior design and is also hiring specialised interior designers for its premium venture, U and Us, where consumers can design their own furniture.


Hiring such specialists and training them is aimed at helping the sales force evolve as consultants, said COO Anil Mathur. Reliance Brands, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail , which runs a chain of 55 premium stores for global brands like Diesel, Timberland, Ermenegildo Zegna, Paul & Shark and Steve Madden, has been hiring talent from fashion institutes to run the stores.


This year, Reliance Brands hired 32 people from National Institute of Fashion Technology and three to four designers from London College of Fashion. The company refers to its store employees as ‘sales consultants’. Reliance Brands pays at least three times more salary to such employees compared with those in its other lifestyle formats. “We need such specialised talent, since a person buying a jeans for Rs15,000 at Diesel would require specialised knowledge on the product, design and far more engagement with the brand. Similarly, the average selling price at Paul & Shark is Rs24,000 and that at Ermenegildo Zegna is Rs 54,000. Selling such high-value products requires specialised skills,” said Reliance Brands president and CEO Darshan Mehta.


The specialised hiring strategy also works for the employees as a second career opportunity. Mahindra Retail’s supermom and superdad concept, for instance , helps professionals coming from a break or as a post-retirement job opportunity . The super moms and dads have no sales targets either. The customer connect adds to the store’s sales; some of them end up dealing with sales worth as much as Rs 70,000, said Mahindra Retail CEO K Venkataraman.


Architect Anjali Kar (name changed on request), joined Future Group’s furniture and home decor retail venture, Home Town in Kolkata, to gain experience in sales. “The selling experience and directly dealing with clients is a plus in career growth, more so if someone were to start up their own firm,” said Ms Kar.

‘Supermom’ Preeti Jhingran (46), joined Mahindra’s Mom & Me store in Bangalore after a stint with Genpact. She says the unique nature of the job impressed her. “I play the role of a mother to would-be parents,” she said. “In cities like Bangalore, where most young couples have nuclear families, all they need is some trustworthy advice which we provide by meeting their needs at the store,” she added.


Similarly, pharma industry veteran Ganapathy Sankarnarayan (69), joined Mom & Me as a superdad, post-retirement . A soon-to-become grandfather with his children settled abroad, Sankarnarayan says he has already enjoyed being a grandfather at the store.


Several new parents even leave their children with him while completing their shopping in the store. Retailers have started drawing career progression plans for specialised professionals . “The best way to dirty your hands in retail is on the shop floor. Such professionals can then move up the ladder,” said Mr Mehta. All in all, it’s a win-win for both.


Source:The Economic Times
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