LEADING brands and retailers may have slammed the brakes on their expansion drive, but new entrants are identifying the opportunities created by the slowdown to steer ahead in a lower-cost environment.

Overall, the store rental-revenue dynamics have improved. Real-estate costs, which were a critical factor for retail has turned favourable, as companies work out deals for existing and prospective properties. “Though sales may have dipped 5-10% for a lot of retailers, rentals have come down 35-40%. As a result, existing stores are now breaking even or becoming more profitable,” associate vice-presidentretail & consumer goods at Technopak, Baqar Naqvi, said. The revenue sharing model, which has positioned malls owners as partners, is also transforming into a key stimulus.

“Earlier, most franchisees would ask for minimum guarantees. These clauses are now out of the system, making expansion through franchising much easier. However, only companies with cash reserves will be able to seize the opportunities in a downturn.

Unfortunately, there are very few of this breed,” added Mr Naqvi. Home decor brand Rosebys, which has announced an expansion to 110 stores this fiscal, is a case in point. For new entrants, there are strong reasons to invest. Take for instance, the Jawad Business Group which franchises Papa John’s and recently launched American south-western casual-dining chain Chili’s. “When there are fewer brands hitting the market, vendors are more willing to indulge in hard negotiations over payment terms, as they are also on the lookout for business,” general manager, restaurant division, Tapan Vaidya, said.

The RPG Group, which operates Spencer’s chain, sees it as an opportune time to test the market for its lifestyle format Mera World. “The downturn not only gives us an opportunity to perfect the model but it is also easier to tie up with the right partners for our shop-inshop formats.

“Many of these brands may have opened standalone stores if the market was better,” Speciality Retail’s president, K Dasaratharaman, said. Mera World has partnered with Baccarose for perfumes, Just in Vogue for watches and Eternity for eyewear. Media costs, which play a key role in brand building have also become much more fluid today.

Economic Times, Sarah Jacob BANGALORE, sarah.jacob@timesgroup,com