Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TOTAL Supermarket

TOTAL is a big supermarket that has opened its doors in Bangalore a while ago. I've gone past their store in Madivala but being in such an inconvenient location, I never thought it worthwhile to stop and take a look inside. They have recently opened their third store in Sarjapur Road and have bombarding the radio waves advertising the same. I had also heard a lot of good things about the selection in their meat section from friends, not that I was ever going to buy anything from there. So, we decided to check it out on Saturday.

The first impression was very positive. As they had been advertising, they had parking space for 500 cars. We didn't have a problem finding a spot. I wonder if it will be the same after the rest of Bangalore discovers the place.

The shopping area is fairly spacious, by Indian standards. The ground floor of the mall was full of fancy shops offering a variety of items ranging from clothing to kids furniture. All with very appealing
displays, and I am sure, price-tags to match. Value-conscious person that I am, we never bothered to enter any of them.

The hypermarket was on the second and third floors. The second floor was mainly clothing with some additional sections for toys and electronic items. We were mainly looking to buy a few shirts and some gifts, so that's where we spent most of the time. Their range of men's clothing
was decent. They weren't very well known brands, but in quality and texture, they felt as good as a Vivaldi or Excalibur atleast, if not the higher end brands. Their range started at 299, but those were not that appealing. The ones at 499 were much better, decent quality cotton and really nice designs. I am not so sure of their longevity, but at that price, it seemed like a good deal and I picked up a few.

The toys section was disappointing, mainly Chinese made junk with a limited selection. I think in their desire to cram in as many categories of goods as possible, they compromised on the space allocated to each section and this greatly limits their variety.

The third floor had furnishing and the food section. The groceries section was fairly well stocked with a huge number of rice varieties occupying centre stage. The vegetable section was good, but what really upset me was the indiscriminate usage of plastic. The process is that you pick up the vegetable, place it in a plastic bag, weigh it and print out a barcode which is scanned at the checkout counter. Novel for India, the advantage is that checkout is really fast, but this means that you have a separate plastic bag for each type of vegetable. I think its high time, we have
rules that discourage such wanton use of plastics.

The thing that impressed me the most was the number of checkout counters. They had around 20 of them, with a lot of space to push the trolley through. Most of the counters had less than 2-3 people waiting in line. They also put a stamp on the parking ticket to waive the parking fees.

Regarding whether these types of supermarkets and hypermarkets are good for India, I am in the middle. I definitely support them when it comes to categories like clothes, furniture etc. For too long, we have been taken for a ride by greedy showrooms and these can definitely bring down
the price of goods. I am not so sure about grocery and vegetables. I don't care what the experts say, they are going to affect the kirana stores and the vegetable vendors with their money power and economies of scale. While that is good for me as a consumer, I don't think it is good
for the people overall. That is the reason I avoid outlets like Reliance Fresh, Food Bazaar, Fabmall etc even if it increases our monthly grocery bill.

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