Beware of that electronics megastore that just opened near you

I have been closely observing the sudden mushrooming of electronics departmental shops in Bangalore. Three years ago, the only “big” ones I had seen were Vivek’s and Pai’s. But the new ones like ezone, chroma, etc. are trying to start really big. Glitzy setups, they are characterised by large numbers of self-display models (as opposed to the traditional “can you show me that?” shops).

Now for over a decade I have been assembling my own PC and frequent quite a few computer/electronic shops (in Bangalore and Delhi) and keep track of prices. So it is quite shocking for me to see the terrible value-for-money proposition that these mega-stores offer.

As most component buyers like me know, the MRP price of electronics items are nowhere near the street prices if you have bought from regular small stores. e.g. a computer monitor might show an MRP of Rs. 14,000 but if you buy from the street it will cost you around Rs. 9000. These are legitimate, bill and warranty purchases, mind you! (The term “street”, for those who are not familiar with the term, are the regular retailers)!

However, if you go to these new mega-stores, they would typically display a list price of the MRP of the monitor with a stinking Rs 100 to Rs. 500 discount and mark huge banners all around exclaiming the amazing deals they are offering you. They will blare over FM channels claiming to have jaw dropping prices and some are even brazen enough to offer you the price difference if you manage to get the same item for cheap elsewhere.

So they don’t give money-for-value. So then why am I worried? Because every day I see more and more people rushing to these stores for the one advantage they have - accessible display of their offering. Whatever these mega-stores have, they have on display. If anything is not on display, they don’t have it. This is the biggest (and I consider the only significant) advantage that they have over the smaller retailers. And just like those farmers who have been crying themselves hoarse over food departmental stores, I am beginning to be afraid for the future for us consumers. It is inevitable that over time, the smaller shops who have till now been working on razor sharp margins and giving us great deals, will have to die. The future, it seems, belongs to the mega stores, and with absence of any corporations like Walmart or Amazon (yes, I know they are criticized for many things otherwise) in this country with a dedicated corporate policy of giving actual value to consumers, it seems that it is us consumers who have everything to lose. For all their big talk, retail biggies like Big Bazaar and Reliance Stores are yet to provide any significant cost advantage to consumers and nor do they appear to have any motivation too. I don’t expect anything different from the new age electronics mega stores.

For all those who have developed a liking to these stores and are reading this blog. Do what I do. Go check out these mega stores for all the items on offer. Make a note of what interests you. Then do a little bit of research or ask around your office and buy the item from a regular small retailer like the ones on SP road or if that is inconvenient, even Brigade Road. I can guarantee you that you will save hundreds if not thousands with every purchase. Whether it is computer parts or mobiles or cameras, you will always get the best deals outside these glitzy abominations.

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