The Independence Day week just went by and I was compelled to start thinking what a great tradition has now set in to the retail system to offer great deals to boost sales. While reading ‘It Happened in India’ by Kishore Biyani, I was highly impressed by the business acumen of this person to come up with ideas to drive footfalls by attractive offers. Today just about everyone has joined the bandwagon- most noteworthy this year was a car rental ‘Cars-on-rent’ offering discounted fares for cars booked on 16th August (named National Bunk day) to cash on the long weekend that we had this year.
Discounts, offers, deals have always been a part of our lives but their presence has now become much more pronounced. Prior to the retail revolution hitting India in the last 90s-2000s; a discount clearance sale was an annual feature which ran around July to August each year. One of the key reasons was the festive shopping is predominant in India runs and from October to January for most people. The July to August was also the time for rains which always pose the threat of stocks getting damaged. Clearance sale met two objectives; people shopped in a non-festive season as well as got the shelves ready for fresh stocks during the festive buying.
The retail revolution brought about a change in terms that shopping was now a weekend affair. What this created was a lean period in the middle of the week. Big Bazaar’s ‘Big Bachat Wednesday’, bridged this gap with price driven shoppers flocking the outlets with shopping carts full with groceries. But Biyani’s master stroke was the Republic Day sale- creating an opportunity within a month after the festive season rush to get people back in stores. The unprecedented success was replicated with the Independence Day sale.
The success of the day specific deals has caught up like a wild fire today. Festive offers now run not only for big festive occasions like Dusshera- Diwali, Christmas and Eid but smaller occasions like raksha bandhan, holi are in the ring. High value purchases like gold and jewellery are also now offered with deals of no making charges to boost sales. There are deals on hotels, holidays, air tickets, spa therapies, medical procedures- just about everything.
I was always under the feeling that brands by definition are supposed to make people exclusive. Brands mark the line separating the ‘have’s’ from the ‘have not’s’. But in recent times, I have seen even iconic brands like apple entering the deals arena. ‘Get an i-phone 5 in exchange for your old smart phone and save X’ and there was a herd of people heading into grab the deal. What this does at times is dilutes the value of the product for an early adaptor who spent a good amount to buy the phone for its exclusivity.
While discounts, exchanges, bundled deals, extra at the same cost all have seen the hay days, one thing that has actually caught up in India has been coupons. I remember my grandfather in the pre-1991 day used to wait for the 15% discount coupons of Raymonds to redeem against purchases of suit lengths. This was a prized possession as the brand was exclusive and not everyone except select employees and share holders got the coupons. Yes, there are fast food chains that run coupons through news papers and delivery boxes; but I am yet to see anyone buy a pizza because they had a coupon.
But yes, coupons are still around and have changed form and now come as an e-code. While online travel booking sites or online stores are using this at present, it has a limited impact. Firstly, they are given out as loyalty benefits and secondly, the kinds of discounts they offer have a very low impact in the larger scheme of things. For me as a user, 20% off on a hotel booking with a cap of maximum discount amount of Rs 500 makes an impact only if my hotel room was priced under Rs 2500. Beyond this my discount percentage falls down and has no meaning.
But as I gather, chunk of buyers today come from our strong and growing middle class population in India. The mass consumerism and buying will go on and once the buying decision is made- deal or no deal; it actually doesn’t matter.