“Retail is Detail”: Interview with Ruban Shanmugarajah

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Ruban Shanmugarajah, Chief Operating Officer of Mothercare / Babyshop for the MENA region, has been instrumental in expanding the brand’s footprint across the region, whilst leading the business through dynamic shifts in the regions retail environment. Bahrain This Week explores the journey of the unique Bahraini brand through his words.

Can you take us through the journey of Mothercare, so far?

The entire journey of Mothercare (also known as Babyshop) / Landmark Group – a leading retail organization in the MENA Region, started as a small store in Bahrain in 1973. It has 235 stores, across 15 countries in the MENA region and beyond, on the present day.  It globally covers 2.9 million sq ft. of retail space.

How do you analyze the improvements after the introduction of the loyalty program “MotherCare Select”?

Most of our customers are still with us since they visited us for the first time. We wanted to show our commitment to the quality service and introduced the loyalty program for our frequent shoppers. The new program is called as ‘Mothercare Select’ and introduced as a subset of the Shukran Program. Loyal customers who spend BHD 150 are entitled for:

  • 10% cash back (in Shukrans) on purchases made in Mothercare,. This can be also earned on purchases online.
  • A chance to be “Shopper of the Month” from the top select members (in terms of spending).
  • Exclusive deals and prices for Mothercare Select members
  • 20% off on 4 rides per month with Careem App.

We will be partnering with others to bring value to our customers. We want to go out of our way to take care of our loyal customers.

How to get Mothercare Select Membership?

You can get enrolled to Mothercare Select if you are a part of the Shukran program. As long as one spends BHD 150 within the given year, you can automatically be a part of the program. There is no separate card and in today’s digital-savvy world, most of the program will be transacted over the Shukran app, which will make it hassle free!

Is it valid in others countries as well?

Mothercare was first introduced in Bahrain and so is ‘Mothercare Select’. As of now, the program is available only in Bahrain, being the first place from where Landmark group started and developed in MENA.

Can a member qualify for Mothercare Select program even if the minimum qualifying amount not spent within
a year?

If you spend BHD 150 in the current year, you will be enrolled for the next one year. But, in case the value hasn’t been spent within 365 days, the amount cannot be carried forward. Eligibility to the program is that one must spend BD 150 in the given year and validity follows until the next year.

The Shukran app gives the complete details on the transactions of a Mothercare Select customer.

What are your views on your online sales and customer satisfaction?

Mothercare had a very good launch in Bahrain. We now have presence in 3 countries- KSA, UAE and Bahrain. Bahrain is trading very well for us, ahead of expectations.

Online is another channel to access our brand. We have introduced a very interesting feature called “Click and Collect”. 12% of the purchases are done by using ‘click and collect’ where consumers buy online and collect the merchandise from the outlets. This is very encouraging and has a favorable response.

A common behavior observed among consumers is that some search online and purchase in the store, while others check in the store, and go back to purchase online. So, we don’t differentiate between our online or offline customers. It’s an Omni-channel strategy where the customer can shop online or in any of our five outlets in Bahrain.

A mother does a lot of research before buying anything for her child. We make it comfortable for her to compare and buy at the shop or online. This being pivotal in our strategy, we can see great success in it. All we envision is being relevant to our customers and how we reach our customers. The current generation wouldn’t like to spend much time in stores, and ‘Click and collect’ helps them to save time.

What are the key marketing strategies you have adopted to compete and build the brand?

We listen and engage with our customers in terms of their need, the product, the pricing. Our loyalty program Shukran in the Middle East is a testament to Landmark Group’s commitment and passion towards enhancing its relationships with customers across diverse brands. It offers a world of privileges to its members including added value, enriching rewards and an enhanced customer experience. The program includes over 50 brands and has over 30 million members.

Our strong presence for the past 45 years in Bahrain and customers identifying our brand set us to a higher level in the market. We effectively run 2 Oasis malls in Bahrain in main areas and the 3rd is coming up very soon. These attribute to our presence in the Kingdom. We have also launched our online site several months ago and have noticed good response to online purchasing. We have been the first retailer to go online.

Needless to say, these wouldn’t have succeeded without our loyal customers.

What is next level for Mothercare?

Our next store will open at Oasis Mall in Juffair in August 2018. We continue to look for opportunities in GCC for expansion. The Landmark group sees a lot of potential with the acceptance of our brand and continues to expand.

What would be your forecast on the 2018 market in Bahrain?

2018 has been challenging due to the opening of many new malls and the disruption of balance between demand and supply. With the implementation of VAT in Bahrain by the end of the year, it might take some time for things to settle down. Being optimistic, we always try and keep our brand fresh and relevant to the customers. It has been noticed that the number of visitors from Saudi to Bahrain has reduced compared to last year. We would be coming with campaigns all-round the year. With a presence of 45 years, we are looking forward to many more years to celebrate.