Interview with Thomas Schlitt on in-store asia and the future of Indian retail
Thomas Schlitt, Managing Director Messe Düsseldorf India, took over the management of the company on September 1, 2015 and since then his target has been to expand the existing trade fairs business portfolio. By reiterating the company’s commitment to the Indian market, Schlitt now aims to increase the participation of Indian exhibitors and visitors at the trade fairs of Messe Düsseldorf in Düsseldorf and worldwide.
Prior to his appointment, Schlitt was part of management in the international business, initially at Messe München and later at Messe Nürnberg for 15 years. In his earlier assignment at Messe Nürnberg, his responsibilities included international sales management and examination of trade fair themes, according to the company’s target markets.
Point of Purchase spoke to Thomas Schlitt on the future of Indian retail and what one can expect at the much awaited in-store asia 2019 event to be held during March 14-16, 2019, in Mumbai.
Speaking about the overall Indian retail scenario, especially in the context of the overall growth of brick-and-mortar retail, how would you rate India vis-à-vis other Asian countries?
India is going through a transformative change in retail fuelled by latest trends and the future of retailing is predominantly driven by the lens of young consumers. Surely, the rise of e-commerce in India has changed how people shop in Asia’s third largest economy. But, research into some large brick-and-mortar retailers in India shows that these firms will grow at between 13 % and 15 % over the next two to three years.
While many have foreseen the ‘Amazonisation’ of brick-and-mortar retail in the West as more and more shoppers prefer online shopping over going to the mall, the story is very different in the East. Online sales represent only 4 % of the total retail industry in South East Asia. As more Southeast Asians relocate to urban settings, the allure of the shopping malls and the resulting prominence of offline retail is here to stay.
In terms of in-store innovations, what are the areas, (fixtures/lighting/tech/signage) do you think, in which India has grown exponentially and where do you think is the cope for improvement?
In-store experiences are gaining importance, not only for engaging shoppers inside the store, but also to catalyse the buying decisions of casual or undecided shoppers. The discounts offered by online retailers and marketplaces may be tempting, but the human engagement offered by physical retail is compelling and still not out of fashion.
The fact is that although the Indian retail story unfolded slowly over the decades, the pace of change has now accelerated to such an extent that retail outlets need to constantly innovate to remain relevant to shoppers, especially the younger ones. The next decade of retail in India would no doubt belong to retailers who successfully adopt newer technologies, lighting structures, theme based fixtures and innovative signage and upgrade their in-store experiences quickly.
A few retailers in India are now responding to this demand for ‘touch and feel’ factor, as also adapting store formats to provide that much needed interactive element.
So how would you narrate the future growth of brick-and-mortar retail in India?
I would go by the market sentiments and believe that offline is the new online. The fear of slowdown of the brick-and-mortar retail in the West may not be the immediate future of Indian retail. I feel E-commerce might take a decade to corner the biggest share of Indian retail.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are holding their ground by focusing on tier II and tier III cities, expanding to multiple channels of sales and concentrating more on profitability than revenue growth.
Just like the present Indian government’s effort of a ‘cashless economy’ after demonetisation had to adjust to the ground reality to change to ‘less-cash economy’, online retail too will get a reality check and integrate with offline retail. And that paradigm shift has just begun, but in a modest way.
Now coming to the largest trade fair in the sub-continent for the retail industry, the in-store asia (ISA) 2019 event, what can buyers expect here?
in-store asia brings together all leading retail solution providers from India and beyond under one roof along with the convention that discusses the moot topics of Indian retail industry and the Design Awards that recognizes talent in retail design and visual merchandising.
With Asia’s retail industry growth continuing to dominate the global retail industry, we expanded our promotion activities to SAARC and Middle East regions. For the coming edition, the planned roadshows and industry meets in these regions will invite buyers to attend the show.
in-store asia is a door-opener for exhibitors, providing direct access to the emerging mega-markets in Asia. The show is designed to offer ‘all-inclusive’ comprehensive solution to the retail industry.
Anything new in ISA 2019?
The event will include a new segment called ‘Tech Village’ which is going to be a stage for inspiring ideas and intensive communication from the world of Retail Technology. With retail in Asia continuing to grow multifold, we executed the show promotion in SAARC & Middle East regions this year by inviting buyers from these regions to attend in-store asia 2019. This will help them deal with the fast changing retail environment with the latest retail solutions available worldwide.
All four trade fairs from Messe Düsseldorf – EuroShop, EuroCIS, in-store asia and C-Star with decades of experience, deep knowledge and understanding of the retail industry, with a finely-tuned feel for developments and trends in the global retail world, will provide a 360-degree experience with international participation in 2019.
What was your thought behind dedicating an exclusive space to technology? What sort of participations can buyers expect in that particular section?
With the introduction of online shopping, on-demand delivery, and e-commerce businesses, consumer behavior and preferences have been dictated by these. Personalization and individuality are in high demand, causing retailers to turn to disruptive technologies to keep their customers happy and serve them from all angles.
This potential is driven by cutting-edge start-ups and the technologies they develop. At ISA, we intend to invite these companies which already are or will soon impact the retail industry and demonstrate those technologies to a larger audience.
The Technology Village will provide start-up companies access to Indian retail market and the greater focus will be on architectural materials and in-store technology.
What’s your overall growth strategy with regard to ISA?
ISA is our flagship event. It is a one-stop, must-attend event for retailers looking for the latest and greatest in retail solutions. The objective is to create ISA as a platform for “Everything About Retail”. With a presence of more than a decade in the retail market, the event focuses on covering every element of the industry in the context of running and growing a store —from marketing and brand management, to merchandising, mobile retailing, store experience, and more.
EuroShop and EuroCIS have already been setting standards for decades in Düsseldorf when it comes to innovation and internationality. in-store asia and C-Star are door-openers for exhibitors, providing direct access to the emerging mega-markets in Asia. These top events in the industry offer optimum access to important markets of the future.
For more information please visit http://www.instoreasia.org/
Source: Point of Purchase, India’s only specialized monthly magazine on Point of Purchase Shopper Marketing