With competition hotting up, Indian retail chains are beefing up their marketing activities to recharge their brands. Retailers like Pantaloons, Ebony, Shopper's Stop and Trent plan to step up marketing spends to stave off threats from mega players like Bharti-Wal-Mart or Reliance Retail.
Retail circles feel marketing activities will now gain momentum as the players have attained a certain scale of operation. Much of the activity till now was limited to below-the-line (BTL) marketing strategies like customer-loyalty programmes, direct mailers and in-store activities.
“But now since retail chains have attained a certain level of operation, the focus will shift to above-the-line (ATL) marketing. Each store will now want to communicate their brand differentiation to their consumers,” Gibson Vedamani, chief executive officer, Retailers Association of India, the industry's apex body, told ET.
Elaborating, Landmark chief operations' officer Himanshu Chakrawarti said: “The retail sector will now be opened up further and draw attention of several business groups. It is but imperative that after merchandise, marketing will assume huge importance for retailers to protect their turf.”
Kishore Biyani's Future Group has already joined the bandwagon and roped in celebrities like Bipasha Basu, Zayed Khan (for the Pantaloons store) and Himesh Reshammaiya (for DJ&C apparel label). “We will be signing two more deals with
Bollywood heartthrobs for our apparel labels within the next one month,” said Pantaloon Retail India president (marketing) Sanjeev Agarwal.
Future Group's marketing mix will vary from retail format to format. While the flagship Pantaloons store will focus more on ATL spends, the Big Bazaar chain will use a mix of both ATL and BTL activities.
“We will double overall marketing budget from the present Rs 100 crore to Rs 200 crore in 2007-08,” added Mr Agarwal.
Others including Ebony too will rope in a brand ambassador for its store brand.
“The marketing mix is certainly shifting towards ATL. We will soon appoint a celebrity for brand endorsement and increase our spent to some 3% of turnover,” said Lalit Kumar, chief executive officer, Ebony Retail Holdings.
Says BS Nagesh, managing director, Shopper's Stop: “The marketing budget will grow by 35%, at par with the growth in business. However, we will maintain the over-all spend at about 4% of turnover.”
However, retailers are still not discounting BTL activities since it is a much more focused approach to hit the target consumer.
Shopper's Stop, for instance, has an extensive BTL strategy which includes tactical promotions like organising men gizmo festival to building long-term relationship with its 7 lakh regular customers.