The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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National tag, Calcutta boom

Four Big Brands. Four national chains. Four flagship centres. All in Calcutta. Confirming retail as the fiscal flavour of the day in town, Pantaloons, MusicWorld, Raymond and Mainland China are holding on to a place at the top, with their highest-grossing outlets nationally in Calcutta.

Organised retail is getting as much as it gives. Pantaloons has been set at number one for a while, with 22, Camac Street ranking as its biggest store, and Gariahat pulling in at third place, behind a Mumbai branch. Now, it is planning another Big Bazaar on Rashbehari, and extensions of its sub-brand, Food Bazaar, at Camac Street and Alipore. Looking at “over Rs 75-crore turnover” from the two Pantaloons stores this year, ending June, in addition to Rs 27 crore from Big Bazaar, for Pantaloons’ Kishore Biyani, Calcutta is “retail capital”. Thirty per cent growth rates, with a record 40 per cent in July, have fuelled expansion plans and Biyani is close to signing deals for two more Pantaloons branches. “The numbers are huge,” says Biyani. “No other city comes close.”

Cut to the Poddar Court Raymond showroom. This is the “highest selling outlet in the country” with annual sales “in excess of Rs 8 crore”, followed by stores in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Chennai. Here, “high conversions” send profits soaring. Even overall sales from Calcutta’s nine stores come just behind that of Delhi, with 28 stores. “We are closely examining opportunities to open more shops in and around Calcutta,” says Aniruddha Deshmukh, executive director, Be: and Raymond retail operations.

The figures sound good at MusicWorld, which also has a turnover of around Rs 8 crore, making the Park Street store country leader with Delhi trailing behind. “Bengali music contributes about 36 per cent of business in Calcutta,” explains S.K. Chowdary, at MusicWorld’s Chennai head office. If the city has a reputation of being penny-wise, the MusicWorld experience is to the contrary, as the CD to music cassette ratio here is higher than the national average.

At Mainland China, weekend lunch buffet queues threaten to spill on to the streets but that does not dim the cravings for a la carte specials. The Calcutta branch of one of 17 restaurants belonging to Anjan Chatterjee’s Speciality Restaurants, with the newly-unveiled O Calcutta to its credit, beats Mumbai by “around 25 per cent sales”. “The price-value equation is very important in Calcutta,” observes Chatterjee.

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