In conversation with Mr. Akhil Jain, Executive Director, Madame
1. How can retailers exploit the true potential of e-commerce?
Covid has given an opportunity to speed up digital strategies across retail. E.g. Madame has targeted omni channel by next fiscal, but due to the reduced sales in brick & mortar, resources are now concentrating on back-end infrastructure. Customers are still worried to venture out and we have experienced up-to 80% increase in E.Com sales
2. Which retail sectors will continue to suffer the most?
Fashion seems to be the sector worst hit. Of this sector, women ethic and formals will be the last to revive owing to a modified customer engagement. Social gathering would get limited and occasional wear would be affected. Also tourism is a major area where fashion clothing adds a great value. With less of tourism, the corresponding purchase will also be impacted.
3. Any good news: how can this crisis generate environmental opportunities?
Impact on natural resources did turn positive. We witnessed AQI levels improve significantly, rivers became crystal clear and so on. With lesser commercial movements, e.g. reduced productions in industries, lesser cargo movement etc will considerably reduce the carbon footprint. It looks as if the nature has gone through a maintenance after a century.
4. What are the operational risks for retailers in the medium and long term?
Sales are severely impacted and industry foresees almost 60% of business compared to last year. Consolidations have started to happen at a higher pace. Every company is trying to evolve a zero risk business model.
5. What else should retailers consider?
Retailers should do away with any opportunity that is experimental. Mark 2020 as a year for introspection and restructuring only.
6. What are your views on the “MAKE IN INDIA” initiative taken by the government?
It’s a fantastic initiative by the central government, boosting morale of industry as well as domestic consumption. We have witness over past few years that the coordination between centre, state and districts needs to be a top-notch level to ensure transparent communication and effort. Also, 100% Make in India is a gradual process and is very well achievable
8. What are your views on the post Covid19 effects on the market and how long will it take to recover the economy?
We eye at-least 15 months for the economy to recover to FY 19/20 level. There is still a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unforeseen concerns pop-up every now and then. E.g. a few stores are non-operational due to a containment zone nearby. It can happen anywhere.
9. Are there any special measures taken by the company to help the relief fund for the ones affected by covid19?
Yes, funds and allied CSR goes hand in hand. From donating to PM Care fund and assisting food supplies in local cities has been two initiatives.
10. All the measures and safety are being taken care of before opening the stores for the general public as well as employees?
Madame is taking every possible precaution as prescribed by authorities and in accordance with Retailers Association of India has been formulated as an SOP which is being adhered to rigorously. This includes store sanitization, trial room sanitization after every use, steam ironing and isolation of trial product, availability of mask for customers, in case they require one and change in the display concept to more of frontal display to ensure that the customer doesn’t need to touch to browse the product.
With the help of technology, catalogues are being sent to the customer and door delivery is facilitated from stores in Tier-2 and tier-3 towns only. Omni Channel strategy is under beat testing at 24 stores so that the brand is well prepared as we come closer to EOSS. At most of the stores, personalised selling is happening and customer is coming at prescribed time to ensure that social distancing and safety.
We are providing frequent sanitisations to our employees, face masks are given to every employee while entering the workplace. Additional hand gloves are provided to the store managers. We are following work from home culture to ensure their safety of our employees.