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Exploring the Retailer`s Perspective: Interview 02

Story Highlights

  • • We use various decorative items for the branding of our store and customer approach us with a smile
  • • There is no end to the circle of deceit and lie from the distributor side
  • • Your invoice doesn’t highlight your profits and company/distributor never discloses its margins, so we are the sufferer in the end
  • • We need an app that gives voice to our concerns and provides solutions to our problems

In retail industry, A retailer is a service provider who fills the orders of many individuals who are end-users. The importance of retailing can be gauged from the fact that the retailers provide the necessary service and a major contribution to the economy. Retailing is interdisciplinary in nature and retailers are the gatekeepers within the modes of distribution and have wide scope for expanding internationally.

In recent years the retail industry of Pakistan has experienced phenomenal growth but the problems of the common retailer have remained ‘untouched’ and ‘unsolved.’ 

The team of Pakretailers.com meets up with a professionally qualified retailer Sohail Rafaqat of Abu Dawood Departmental Store, UET, Lahore, who throws light on the issues faced by retailers in Pakistan.

Equipped with an MBA degree from a well-reputed institution, Sohail Rafaqat is well known for the art of doing retail business in Pakistan. Involved in the family business for the last 10 years, Sohail is not happy with the trade margin offered by the distributors. Nodding his head in despondency, he stated, “I don’t know if it exists, we only know what the distributor tells us. What is going on behind the scene is beyond our knowledge.”  The fairness of trade is always in question since the distributor likes to ‘talk and act in riddles.’  We receive a copy of monthly bills and are forced to pay those bills without any explanations,” stated Sohail.

The company doesn’t cooperate in this matter and a fair margin is offered to the distributor only. “The whole concept of traditional retailing revolves around the distributor in Pakistan. There is no organized system and no fair dealing exists. When this happens, there is a lot of price variations in different shops and even dealing with the wholesaler.

While responding to the question of a number of distributors coming to his shop, Sohail commented, “Almost 10 to 15 distributors visit us regularly and in a month it can go up to 60 people.”  Understanding the importance of communication to keep his store running effectively, the store owner is of the view that the distributor visits us himself and in case if he doesn’t connect with us, we give him a call. The salesman is another person guiding him. There are times when we make an effort to call companies for product delivery.

“It is usually the order taker, customer or distributor who informs us about the latest products and such offers can do wonder to your business. Also, the word of mouth makes us aware of the seasonal products,” said Sohail. He gives full credit to the order taker for informing many like him about new products and blames the company for not responding to such promos.

The departmental store offers many exciting viable buying opportunities to the academic and general masses. The store is well decorated and has played an immense role in his success. ”We use various decorative items for the branding of our store and customer approach us with a smile,” emphasized Sohail.

His response to the question of participation in product training or trade convention was not very encouraging because Pakistani retailers are hardly given such opportunities and in most cases the busy life of the retail industry hardly allows him to move anywhere else.

The involvement of company representatives in the life of a retailer is very limited, however, many caring brands have managers and supervisors who visit them regularly to check if their products and services are being sold according to the standards set by the company.

There are times when he does receive invitations from companies/distributors to participate in fun musical nights in family festivals.  His busy schedule doesn’t allow him to do so, but he ensures that his family does enjoy recreational fronts.

The store has been offering credit card and debit card facilities to consumers for many years. His knowledge of QR Code Payment is inadequate but would like to introduce it in the long run. “I came to know about it when I was attending a food festival in Lahore. I used an app of a company and paid through the QR Code. It was very interesting as one doesn’t have to carry money around and scan the code only.”

The entrepreneur is financially secured and doesn’t need a loan on easy terms from the bank. He has been inspired by the idea of promoting his business by using internet publicity and would love to promote if any opportunity calls.

Sohail Rafaqat is a keen user of a smartphone and uses apps like Facebook or WhatsApp to stay connected with friends and family.

While responding to the matters concerning the retail industry, Sohail stated with sadness, “If we ask order taker to deliver us 10 products, he would state two reasons. First, they are out of stock and secondly, there is a shortage from the company. Also when we have given an order and received it, we get the response that they are not available in the godown. The distributor holds us liable for not informing him on time when we have already told him in verbal or written form. There is no end to the circle of deceit and lie from the distributor side.”

As mentioned above, another issue is not knowing about pricing. If there is a promo or scheme going on 50 products by the company, the company never tells the retailer. It is a very tricky situation and we always get informed about them in the end by the distributor or order taker. At such a time our chances to earn profits become too low. By the time we come to know about schemes or promos, we are at a loss and the distributor/order taker has availed all the perks.

He emphasized the companies to support the retail industry, help them set a margin so that fairness of the trade can help them reap rewards. “Your invoice doesn’t highlight your profits and company/distributor never discloses its margins, so we are the sufferer in the end,” said the owner.

If such matters are sorted out, we can expect a great improvement in the retail business. As far as the expiry issue is concerned, some well-reputed companies take back their expired products whereas others don’t and come up with reasons stating that these products are not in stock or company does not have a policy related to it.

Concluding the interview on a positive note, Sohail stated that first there should be transparency in all the matters of the retail industry. The company, distributor and retailer should know the price of the product. MRP is written for the customers but the retailer does not know the price of the product. Second is the availability of the product in the market. There has to be a platform/app where a company should be informed that the distributor of a particular area doesn’t have stock/services or that he sets his own prices. We need an app that gives voice to our concerns and provides solutions to our problems.”

Special Thanks to:

Video Facilities & Post: Areesh Zubair
Written Content: Madiha Syedain
Interview Arrangements: Nayyer Masood, Haider Ali

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