Preserving Indian Heritage – The Bombay Store

The history of The Bombay Store is older than the history of Independent India. The legacy carried forward by The Bombay Store is a matter of a fantastic case study where from a single store situated in one of the oldest streets in Mumbai – Sir P M Road, the foot-print with the evolution of modern retail has grown multifold with the store even expanding beyond Mumbai but with the same name – The Bombay Store. As the store at P M Road in Mumbai completes 108 years, we take a walk through at the store and find out that though with changing market dynamics, new categories have evolved but the look and feel of the store still give you a sense of walking through a century old store!

Taking a walk down the memory lane, Asim Dalal, managing director – The Bombay Store takes us through the inception of the store. He shares, “Our first store was launched in 1905. It has been a long journey from Bombay Swadeshi Store to being rechristened as The Bombay Store in December 1995.   The Bombay Store started off as a store to promote handicrafts and handloom and over a period of time it evolved to become a treasure trove for all things Indian.  Retailing in India has changed in terms of its nature, with new plus international brands coming in, growing consumer awareness about product quality and services, higher disposable income of consumers and the desire to try out new products. The lifestyle and profile of the Indian consumer is going through a rapid transformation. The Bombay Store has always housed the most exclusive range of products depicting the rich culture and heritage of India. As time evolved so did the customer and his needs, his exposure and the economic scenario all lead us also to evolve and   bring a new India within the store. So with the changing times, the old classics took a new hue towards a tinge of contemporary which was appealing to the young India as well.”

Spread across 10,000 sq.ft, the store at Sir P M Road is a must visit for anyone who wishes to experience the charm of an old world stores with a modern touch. Subtle color story adopted mesmerizes the shopper making him spend time going through the various SKUs within the store which include a good mix of apparels, artifacts and health and wellness. The natural zoning within the store thanks to the store layout adds to the experience of being within a vintage store.

Elaborating on the challenges faced while putting the store together, Dalal shares, “Our major challenge was to design display units which can exhibit products of different dimensions and forms in a restricted area. We design units in such a way that our signature products from each category are displayed correctly and grab customer eyeballs.” To ensure that a freshness in visual merchandizing is always maintained, the window display is changed every 15 days and the new arrivals are highlighted through in-store communication and display.

On the major changes adopted during the 108 year journey that the brand has crossed, Dalal shares, “As you know we started with Bombay Swadeshi Store in 1905, with our first store at PM Road. The new management took over in 1991 and that’s when new format stores were introduced. For both the formats: Mall and High Street, it was important that we adopted different strategies. For Mall stores it was important to capture the attention of the customer instantly. Hence in Mall stores, one can browse all the categories in one look. For high Street stores, it was important that customers are directed to each category in a proper flow. The fixtures were then developed and placed accordingly. The look and feel of these stores is uncluttered and open.”

As modern retail started spreading its wings in the country, heritage stores like that of The Bombay Store, Akbarally’s, Asiatic etc. had to either adapt to the change or allow competition from ‘modern’ looking stores take over their set of loyal customers. Dalal was quick to recognize the need to change and this led him to bring in necessary changes not just in terms of expansion but also in terms of offering new product categories and also enhancing the ambiance of the store. Dalal shares, “The philosophy was to set up a lifestyle retail chain a serious player in the fast growing organized retail market keeping in line the original Bombay Swadeshi store legacy.  The most important aspect was to ensure that the store design compliments the products that will go on display. Since we deal in 4 major categories: Artefacts & Gifts, Home Décor, Fashion Accessories and Wellness, we wanted each category to have its own look and feel.  The store was expected to carry the signature of The Bombay Store in every way. We avoided the use of too many props and the colors used in the stores are subtle so that the highlight can be our products. Each store has a distinct Wall – which we call it as “Jaipur Wall”. Jaipur Wall displays all the Artifacts from India.”

Average store size of 2000 – 3000 sq ft.

Investment – Roughly around 75-80 lakhs.

Breakeven time – 18 months

Importance of VM, store designing and planogram
Aseem Dalal shares, “Effective visual merchandising is a blend of art and science. The art factor is to create a captivating visual design that converts the window shopper into a potential buyer. The science part is all about playing with the sensory factors through an eclectic combination of color schemes, music, smell and touch sensors to ensure that actual sale happen. Since VM caters to short attention spans, the visual design has to tell the complete story in less than 30 seconds. Before deciding on the visual merchandising plan, it is important to take the personality of your brand into consideration. The visual merchandising of your business should carry the signature of your brand in every way.

Though there is no doubt that VM is a great tool to achieve your sales targets at the same time its role need not be overestimated. An effective way of visual merchandising is by making it remain a silent salesman in the larger scheme of your business planning. It should not be so loud that your customers feel screamed at nor should it be so mild or underplayed that no one notices your products.

Use visual design to create brand
 Creating a compelling design and rolling it out inexpensively can be as trying for an existing chain as for an inexperienced start-up. Hence it is imperative to come up with cutting edge visual designs. Find the best group of people possible, bring them together, inculcate them the organizational culture, values, design philosophy and give them space to create what is required. They will create an “Iconography” that the organization can own.

Creating brand touchstones
Visual design is a process. Many times when starting out, you establish design parameters and objectives having no idea where you will end up. Out of this process, the designers need to develop a set of brand “Touchstones”. A “Touchstone” is a word, phrase, or image that attempts to capture the essence of the design approach. All future work would refer back to a touchstone in an obvious or sometimes subtle way.

~ Zainab Morbiwala ~


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