10 Jul 2020 20:05 IST

Time for brands to look at disruptive reinvention

Calls for innovative collaborations, elevated shopping experiences, convergence of retail channels

In the coming months, as the retail market gradually opens up, brands and businesses have to reinvent themselves to stay in the game. This reinvention will be in the form of innovative brand collaborations, elevated shopping experiences, and convergence of retail channels, concurred the panelists at a webinar on ‘Future of Shopping and Cinema’, hosted by Workplace Trends India, a workplace conference platform.

Brands must look at disruptive reinventions and collaborations to engage with customers. For instance, can there be merchandising at cinemas, so that consumers are enticed to walk into a movie hall, once it is open to the public? These are ideas worth exploring, said Ajay Bijli, Chairman and Managing Director, PVR Ltd, and the owner of PVR Cinemas. “We have to give consumers an experience they can’t get at home.”

PVR is toying with the idea of proprietary F&B products that consumers can buy from an ecommerce channel or pop-up stores, like how Marks & Spencer has diversified. The idea is to have revenues even when there is a shutdown, as about 30 per cent of its revenues comes from F&B, reasoned Bijli. He doesn’t mind if consumers buy PVR branded popcorn to snack on while watching movies on an OTT platform. He doesn’t see any conflict in this.

Working together

Agreeing with this line of thought, Arjun Sharma, Chairman of Select Group, which runs the Select Citywalk mall in Delhi, said the new era is not about competition but about brands working together, as the common goal is to get a share of the consumer’s wallet. He also sees a merger of offline and online channels.

According to Sanjeev Mohanty, Managing Director – South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, Levi’s Strauss & Co, the quality of the management team will decide if brands make it or not, for “the management team empowers the people at the front end.” Mohanty also thinks brands have to think in terms of sustainability as consumers will henceforth be more conscious of their consumption.

For now, mall owners and retail brands are investing time and effort on health and hygiene protocols, such as humidity and air control and sanitation, and training of front-end staff and franchisees. These measures, they hope, will instill confidence in the consumer that their places are safe and bring them back in. Safety practices apart, in the wake of the new normal, brands also have to offer conveniences such as curbside pick-up, personal shopping, and contactless shopping, powered by mobile apps and digitisation.

Grocery, skincare pick up

What has been the consumer response so far? At Select Citywalk, one month into the opening of the malls, footfalls are gradually increasing, said Sharma. He pointed out that grocery, wine and cosmetics, especially skincare, are the categories that are doing well. According to Mohanty, Levis is seeing sales climbing back week on week at the stores that are open. “Globally, Middle East is coming out of the pandemic. Israel and Egypt are going back to normalcy. The emerging markets will bounce back faster and catch up on growth,” he said.

Theatre owners have a bigger challenge on hand, given that cinema halls are places of high density and are yet to be opened to the public. But PVR’s Bijli is optimistic. Citing the Spanish Flu, when cinemas closed globally, Bijli said, “Historical data shows that cinemas have always bounced back. One can’t write off the industry.” Bijli thinks Indians have been “incarcerated” for a long time, and it is only a matter of time before they embrace cinemas. And PVR is ready with all the safety and physical distancing protocols to welcome them and a pipeline of Indian movies such as 83 and Suryavanshi and Hollywood ones such as Tenet and Top Gun.

Though there is no silver bullet to bite, ultimately, businesses have to figure out a sustainable plan that will help them “Rescue, Revive and Reinvent” themselves to counter the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown.

(Swetha Kannan is a freelance writer and editor based in Chennai. She was formerly a journalist with The Hindu BusinessLine.)