As business has evolved over the ages, retailing, an important and dynamic part of it, has also kept pace with the changes. However, in the recent past there have been such drastic and far-reaching developments in this field that it is said that we are presently experiencing a retailing revolution, not only in India, but the world over.
Retailing has come a long way today in our country, from the local Kirana shops that existed since long, long ago. The focus now is not only on making retailing more convenient for the customer but also on making shopping an enjoyable experience for him or her.
The shift in approach in retailing aims at earning profit by offering customers more choice, more convenience and better facilities.
In keeping with the changing lifestyles of consumers where they now have more purchasing power but lesser time, retailers are offering services like free home delivery, pre-packed goods (milk, juice, etc.), after sales services, convenience of shopping for different products under one roof (departmental stores) and shopping through the Internet, e-mail, post, SMS or telephone.
Many businessmen who were earlier focusing only on manufacturing of products, are now venturing into retailing (vertical integration). They are either opening their own exclusive showrooms or outlets under their brand name or tying up with existing retailers or employing direct selling agents (that link the manufacturer to the consumer by directly selling goods to final consumers, eliminating wholesalers and other retailers from the chain).
In order to encourage consumers to buy products, retailers are offering attractive schemes of financing products, especially for consumer durables like refrigerators, television, air-conditioners, etc. Very low rates of interest are charged by the retailer for financing the product. Some retailers also have tie-ups with banks for the purpose of providing consumer finance.
With a view to offer variety to consumers with convenience and easy accessibility, today retailing includes automatic vending machines. Through these machines, consumers can buy items like newspapers, magazines, chocolates, contraceptives, cold drink cans and so on by inserting requisite denomination of coins and pressing a button. The item gets delivered from the machine without any human intervention.
Shopping malls have been another outcome of the retail revolution in urban areas. They are like a huge shopping complex, housed in a single building, generally offering services like parking space, recreational facilities like cinema halls, variety of food outlets or restaurants (food courts) apart from a number of shops selling different goods. They may include a departmental store spread over multiple storeys or floors, apart from a number of other independent shops, all under the same roof.
Shopping malls have gained popularity with consumers because they offer a convenient shopping experience to them, due to the many other facilities that they house. They are generally designed in such a way that they are accessible to the differently abled persons with facilities like ramps, wheel chairs, etc.
Another development in recent times has been the use of multiple channels for retailing a single product i.e., selling the product through mail order as well as through departmental stores or through itinerant retailers, general stores as well as over the Internet at the same time (for e.g., Amul Ice cream is sold through pushcarts, in local grocery shops, in departmental stores, and over the Amul.com website).
Some retail outlets are also using multiple format retailing, where the retail outlet combines the features of two different types of retailers. For e.g., a departmental store and chain store combination in the form of a chain of departmental stores across different parts of the country like Big Bazar, Vishal Megamart.
The combination of a super market and a departmental store forms a hypermarket. It is a large scale retail facility which provides enormous range of products under one roof. A consumer can buy all his/her weekly or monthly requirements in one trip from the hypermarket.
Thus, we can see that trade within the country (internal trade) may assume different forms, depending on the needs and demands of consumers. Newer features in existing forms or newer forms of retailing keep developing with changing times and changing consumer preference.