In December I wrote about Subhiksha's cluster plan of opening 90 stores in the city by April 2007 (Re: Organised retail scene will be hot ...). But now it seems they've postponed their plans to a later period this year. At this juncture the first star entry is going to be by Spencer's- India's first retail chain that originated in Chennai in 1863. After winning over South with Foodworld (Which has been rechristened Spencer's) and establishing itself in West, Kolkata becomes an important destination in the nationwide rollout of Spencer's, currently owned by city-based RPG group. It operates in four formats- Express (Which is your friendly neighbourhood department store, of 1200-1500 sq ft), Daily (3000-5000 sq ft), Super (Supermarket) and Hyper (Hypermarket). In March three Daily stores are opening in Bangur venue, Beliaghata and Tollygunge. Another fourteen will follow in six months in different formats. As per plan there will be three hypermarkets- in South City Mall, Mani Square (On EM Bypass) and Rashbehari Avenue. The South City Mall hypermarket is slated to be the largest Spencer's outlet in the country.
The near future will see Spencer's expanding into 35-40 Express and 25-plus Daily stores in Kolkata alone, to compliment a hub of five hypermarkets. Spencer's has promised a never-before international standard shopping experience in their hypermarkets with an amazing range of merchandise with emphasis on food products.
The other players in the fray are Khadim's Khazana, Haldiram's (Erstwhile Haldiram Bhujiawala), Emami, El Dorado and Vishal Mega Mart. Khadim's, a Kolkata-based shoe and leather products co., tasted success in their first hypermarket in Kanchrapara, a suburb and is now set to replicate it in the city. Emami, the city-based personal products and healthcare group, is already present in retail through their Starmark bookstore chain. Vishal Mega Mart, after success in other parts of India, is coming to the city which gave birth to Vishal group's first retail foray- Vishal Garments. The massive promise of the retail industry seems to be too hot to resist even by smaller business groups.
All this will redefine shopping in Kolkata which is familiar with Big Bazaar/ Food Bazaar and local players like C3, Wot Not (From Rupa group which owns the Rupa hosiery brand)) and Arambagh's (The downmarket neighbourhood department store chain from Arambagh Hatcheries who own the hugely popular Arambagh's Chicken brand) as far as organised retail is concerned. By the year end there will possibly be at least one retail store in most parts of Kolkata. In the present rush what is specially noticeable is the pace with which Spencer's will roll out, as Kolkata till now has witnessed six Big Bazaar/ Food Bazaar stores in almost as many no. of years (Arambagh's is a much longer chain but only Big Bazaar matches up to Spencer's). For information on more actions on retail in Kolkata, watch this space.