The concept of product life cycle is also applicable to retail organizations. This is because retail organizations pass through identifiable stages of innovation, development, maturity and decline. This is what is commonly termed as the retail life cycle.
Attributes and strategies change as institutions mature. The ‘Retail Life Cycle’ is a theory about the change through time of the retailing outlets. It is claimed that the retail institutions show an s-shaped development through their economic life. The s-shaped development curve has been classified into four main phases:
A new organization is born, it improves the convenience or creates other advantages to the final customers that differ sharply from those offered by other retailers. This is the stage of innovation, where the organization has a few competitors. Since it is a new concept, the rate of growth is fairly rapid and the management fine tunes its strategy through experimentation. Levels of profitability are moderate and this stage can last up to five years depending on the organization.
The retail organization faces rapid increases in sales. As the organization moves to stage two of growth, which is the stage of development, a few competitors emerge. Since the company has been in the market for a while, it is now in a position to pre-empt the market by establishing a position of leadership. Since growth is imperative, the investment level is also high, as is the profitability. Investment is largely in systems and processes. This stage can last from five to eight years. However, towards the end of this phase, cost pressures tend to appear.
The organization still grows but competitive pressures are felt acutely from newer forms of retailing that tend to arise. Thus, the growth rate tends to decrease. Gradually as markets, become more competitive and direct competition increases, the rate of growth slows down and profits also start declining. This is the time when the retail organization needs to rethink its strategy and reposition itself in the market. A change may occur not only in the format but also in the merchandise mix offered.
The retail organization looses its competitive edge and there is a decline. In this stage, the organization needs to decide if it is still going to continue in the market. The rate of growth is negative, profitability declines further and overheads are high.
The retail business in India has only recently seen the emergence of organized, corporate activity. Traditionally, most of the retail business in India has been small owner managed business. It is difficult to put down a retail organization, which has passed through all the four stages of the retail life cycle.
In the private sector, till a few years ago, most cities in India had a few independent retailers. For example, Mumbai had stores like Akbarally’s., Premsons, Amarsons and Benzer. Then Shopper’s Stop opened its first outlet in Mumbai in 1991.The store initially offered apparel, imitation jewelry cosmetics and perfumes and home fashions. It also had a customer loyalty program in place, which many stores at that time did not offer.
The store enjoyed an enviable position for a while. However, with the change in customer expectations and increased competition in the form of other department stores like Globus, Eastside, Lifestyle, etc and the rise of specialty stores, the company has been forced to rethink its product offering. It now not only stocks apparel, jewelry, cosmetics etc that it earlier stocked but has also acquired the book store chain – Crosswords.
Cross words counters have been added to many of the existing stores. The store in Andheri (Mumbai) also houses Planet M, music retail chain and a small coffee shop. In May 2008, the company embarked upon a major exercise in terms of repositioning of the store, which involved among other things, a change in the logo. It is necessary to keep in mind that a retailer need not always move from maturity to decline. By reworking the marketing strategy or by changing the product or service offering, a retailer may succeed in moving back to the growth phase after reaching a stage of maturity with a certain format and a certain mix of products.