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Retailers offer schemes as consumers go choosy

As grocery prices hit the roof with soaring inflation rate, consumers are becoming choosy, but they have yet to cut back on shopping, reports Saurabh Turakhia.
Hindustan Times | By Saurabh Turakhia, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 07, 2008 11:37 PM IST

The shoe is beginning to pinch, but it’s not time yet to take it off.

As grocery prices hit the roof with inflation rate touching a three-year high of 7 per cent, consumers are becoming choosy, but they have yet to cut back on shopping.

Retail chains are doing their bit to keep the momentum going, offering fresh discounts and new schemes.

“As of now, we are not noticing a fall in sales. Wherever possible, we are trying to maintain our prices,” said Rajan Malhotra, CEO of Big Bazaar. “It is true that prices of commodities like pulses, rice, oil, wheat have increased, but we have plans to see how we can bring down the food bill for our consumers.”

Most shoppers say that much as they would like to bring the food bill down, they have no choice as most of the price increases have been in basic items like milk, oil, dal, rice, wheat etc.

They are definitely a worried lot. Shubha A Bhat, a 60-year old housewife and a mother of two married children staying at Walkeshwar in South Mumbai, belong to the rising breed of consumers who are concerned over the galloping grocery bills. “If prices continue to rise, my monthly food bill rise by Rs 500,”said Bhat.

“Whether inflation (rate) is at 7 per cent or lower or even higher, we have to buy the daily necessities and in the same quantity. I am trying out a cheaper edible oil product as my favourite brand has become expensive,” says Dr Asha Abde who went for her monthly grocery shopping in Pune on Saturday.

Companies like Reliance Retail and Big Bazaar are doling out attractive schemes to keep customers.“On Sunday, we have offered a discount of Rs 5 for every milk packet. We have been doubling sales every week,” said Reliance Retail’s store manager at Nerul in New Mumbai.

The mood is still upbeat in cities like Chandigarh, which has the highest per capita income in India. Rohit Gawri, director, Peshawari Super Market Pvt Ltd, Manimajra, said: “In Chandigarh, people’s buying power has improved so much that inflation hardly matters”. Still, some organised retail chains say they have seen sales slow down in recent months.

(with inputs from Sarika Sharma in Chandigarh and Radhika Pancholi in Pune.)

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