Some of the recent trends in retail trade are given below:
Some retail shops set up their branches in different areas to sell goods to customers who find it inconvenient to go to the central branch. The central shop supplies goods to its branches and coordinates and controls their operations.
When a retail shop becomes popular it may find it profitable to open new branches in the city. All the branches deal in the same products. They are centrally owned and controlled. All the branches are operated on similar lines.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is “an organisation owning, controlling interest in two or more establishments which sell substantially similar merchandise at retail prices” Gradually; the various branches become a chain of stores owned by the same retailer.
When the chain sells a wide variety of goods it is called ‘variety store’. If the goods are sold at fixed prices, it may be described as a fixed priced chain store.
2. Vending machines:
A vending machine is a machine from which the buyer can get an article by inserting coins in it. The articles sold by a vending machine are prepared and standardised in quality.
Vending machines are installed in busy shopping centres and at public places such as railway stations and bus stands. In our country Mother Dairy milk, soft drinks, ice cream, etc, are sold through vending machines. Thus, vending machines represent automation in retailing.
Vending machines provide quick service and convenience to customers. However, it is expensive to installment and maintains such machines. Moreover, vending machines can be used only for selling a few products.
Packing means putting the products into a suitable package. Packing has become important due to increasing competition and widening markets. Proper packing protects the goods during transport and storage.
It also gives individuality or identity to the product. The brand name is attractively printed on the package. The information concerning weight, price and use of the product can be printed or inserted inside the package. Thus, packing helps to create demand and attract customers.
4. After sales service:
In case of consumer’s durables such as car, television, refrigerator, airconditioner, computer, washing machine, etc., consumers require regular repair and maintenance service.
Such service is called after sale service. It is required both during the guarantee period and thereafter. During the guarantee period, after sale service is provided free of charge. After the guarantee period, it is provided on charge.
Prompt, courteous and efficient after sale service, enables the seller to increase his reputation and satisfaction of consumers.
A manufacturer can provide after sale service in the following alternate ways:
(i) Directly by sending the staff for repair and maintenance of the product as and when it is out of order. The manufacturer may set up service centres at different places to repair the product.
(ii) Making arrangements with distributors and dealers to provide the necessary service. The manufacturer may upgrade the efficiency and reliability of dealers through appropriate training programmes.
(iii) Putting greater focus on product design through more effective research, testing and quality control thereby minimsing breakdown and the need for after sale service.
(iv) The manufacturer may leave it to independent service specialist firms to provide after sale service.
Generally, manufacturers adopt the first alternative. In this alternative they can earn good profits on spare parts. This alternative also keeps the manufacturer in touch with the customers and their problems.
In the second alternative, dealers can offer faster services because they are closer to the customers.
Manufacturer can still make profit on spare parts but give the servicing profit to the middlemen. Over a period of time independent service firms emerge.
They generally provide cheaper and faster service than the manufacturer or the autorised dealer. Ultimately some big customers may take over the responsibility of repairing and maintaining themselves.
For instance, a company having one hundred computers in its different departments/branches may find it cheaper to have its service staff. It may get its staff trained in self-serving.
5. Trading stamps:
During severe competition, retailers offer sales incentives to attract customers. Discount sales, gift coupons, trading stamps, etc., are examples of such incentives.
A retailer offers free trading stamps to customers who buy goods from him on regular basis. These stamps are issued generally at the rate of 2.5 per cent of the amount of goods purchased. Customers go on accumulating the stamps.
They can exchange their stamps with any article of equivalent value from the retailer. Trading stamps induce consumers to buy their requirements from the retail shop offering such stamps.
In other words, the purpose of trading stamps is to increase loyalty of customers. Raymon Bonus stamps have been popular in India.