Departmental stores are slowly replacing traditional grocery shops, and Kashmiris are finding the switch better suited to their busy lives. Syed Asma reports on how Kashmiris are changing the way they shop.
There was a time when Kashmiris would prefer shopping for groceries at stores located near their homes. They would give fresh vegetables priority, and would get these either from their own gardens, or from the neighbourhood vegetable vendor.
But today, these small corner shops are being gradually replaced by comparatively larger departmental stores or convenience marts – stores which include more varieties than the traditional locations, and also provide almost every single everyday use item.
“It becomes easierto shop from these stores, as most of the daily use items are found here. We get almost everything from only one shop,” says Anjum, a frequent visitor to convenient stores.
There are more than a dozen of convenience storesacrossKashmir, and these stores cover almost every area in Srinagar. They are seen in Bemina, Hyderpora, Nishat, LalChowk, Babademb, Gojwara and may other places.
“Pick N’ Choose” in LalChowk is the first convenience store in Kashmir. The supermarket was started in the year 2000. It is a self service store which offers a wide range of food and household appliances, organised in different departments.
“The idea struck me in Delhi, as these kinds of shops are commonly seen there, even bigger than these. I thought it will be more convenient for our people now as they are living busy lives too”, says Nasir Hamid Khan, managing partner of the shop.
“People have appreciated this pattern of shopping”, says Khan. “In these kinds of shops, all varieties are on display and customers do not have to ask for required items, they can simply pick up what they need themselves.”
This concept has picked up quite a bit. The owners are reluctant to share information on their profits, but they admit that the business is progressing well.
“It is obvious that a businessman will only invest in something if it is profitable. They will never let their money fail,”saysInam Khan, purchase manager, Krimson. The shop is owned by Ashfaq Ahmed Hamadani and Ajaz Ahmed Bhat.
In addition to owning this shop, they are hoteliers and are in the business of Kashmiriarts and crafts.
Earlier, shops were exclusively meant for certain goods.There were exclusive stores for cosmetics, groceries, electronic goods and others, but now, most of the items are found in a single shop.
A shopper has a lot of space to move around and shop. “At times, a lot of customers just come to relax here. They come in groups, chat, roam around in the shop and leave, even leave without shopping for anything,” says Nasir.
Customers too are finding it comfortable and convenient. “These shops have made lives easier. The only thing I do not like about these shops is you can’t bargain”, says Shafiqa.
These supermarkets have generated a good number of employees as well. An ordinary store requires two or three salesmen. “The requirement is as per the area of the shop and the quantity of the products available.As these shops have more products and are spread on comparatively larger area, so the requirement is more”, says a salesman in aconvenience shop in the Old city. These convenient stores have about 10-15 employees on average.
In addition to these convenience shops, a bigger hypermarket is coming up.
V-mart was inaugurated in May 2011, and its owners aim it to expand as a hypermarket. Hypermarkets usually include a supermarket and a departmental store.
The area of V-mart is about 10,000 sq feet. It is the first of its kind in Kashmir. It has clothes, crockery, stationery, grocery, utensils, and more. The store has about 50-60 employees, who are currently accompanied by 10 trainers from Delhi. These trainers are training the local staff.
“I have been appointed by a cosmetic company and I am being trained by them, in fact all of us are trained by different companies to take up their sales (to have profit)”, says Arifa (name changed), a staff member in one of these shops.
These shops come up with different schemes and discount offers to increase their consumer base. “We have different offers for different times. We will soon have the Ramadan offer, Eid offer and others. It helps to have more customers in line,” says Kaiser Din, Manager of V-Mart. “We launch schemes almost every Friday, which last till Monday”.
Most of the products displayed in these stores come from Delhi, apart from a few which are purchased from the local distributors.