As we head out to the Olive Planet (oliveplanet.in) shop floor on a sunny February afternoon, we can’t help but notice how much it looks like an army camp from the outside. As Captain Niranth later tells us, we aren’t the only ones to make that mistake either. There’s a college campus just a few yards from the Olive Planet stores, and students from there are yet to visit this retailer of military gear that doesn’t just look authentic but works well too. The reason – they think this unassuming tin-roofed, single room establishment is an army camp.
The lack of awareness around military gear being available for civilians hasn’t stopped sales at Olive Planet from soaring, however. With their clean, no-nonsense web presence to selling across marketplaces and a retail outlet, Olive Planet seems to understand what several other retailers are still grappling with- they only way to build a retail experience is to be present everywhere.
Selling In A Niche Market: The Mantra
For someone with focus only on pure play retail, it may not matter what products you sell. As long as the products have a good margin, and can generate sustainable revenues even with the cuts that marketplaces keep, they’re an easy sell.
However, as a retailer, you may also be looking to sell products in a niche segment. If so, this is for you.
1. The Choice Of Products – Military Gear
Olive Planet sells military gear ranging from apparel and shoes to lighters, camping gear, dog tags, multi-utility knives and even foldable camp beds. The choice of what to sell was an easy one for the founder, Captain Chethan. Having spent several years in the Indian army, the products he now sells were once indispensable in his daily life. If you think that is a bad way to choose products for retail, you’re wrong.
Customers come back to Olive Planet because they’ve found ways to use their products in other ways. Jackets and boots are a big hit with wildlife photographers and adventure junkies. Some customers have found ways of putting everyday gear to fairly unique uses, such as the now-retired seaman who makes toys out of the camp bed material. Sailing for months on end with nothing to keep him company, he learned the art of using the folded material to make soft toys. His kids love them, and always want more.
In essence, while the product domain is very niche, the products themselves can be put to a variety of uses. Military gear, as it is now known, was developed with the purpose of helping those in outdoor environments. Olive Planet caters to this need simply by letting the consumer choose how they wish to use a product.
By helping customers discover this versatility in your products as well, you can sell in any domain you want.
2. Choosing The Right Business Model
Retail trends are subject to change, and the chevron print that was all the rage last summer has been replaced by bright, vintage florals this time around. As a retailer, getting stock to move from your warehouse is the only way to make money. You cannot work around it. While it is very tempting to ride the high wave and make the most of the e-commerce boom, you also need to think of how much you can afford to invest in your business.
Olive Planet is a bootstrapped venture, and as Captain Chetan says in jest, “we’ve been a bootstrapped startup for six years now.” Uncertainties in market demand have affected them, especially the cash crunch after December 2016’s demonetization move. However, it isn’t the product sales alone that keep them afloat – it is the commitment to quality. Customers buy from them, even if their products seem expensive at first glance because they trust the products to work well and to last.
When you are in a niche market, it matters how you do business. You need to have a clear picture of when you expect to break even. You also need to prepare for hurdles along the way, such as what would happen if your product suddenly went out of fashion one day. As long as you can commit to quality and usefulness, you are relatively safe.
3. Leveraging Multichannel Retail
Captains Chethan and Niranth have no qualms in admitting that their physical store isn’t the one giving them visibility. Their web store is the point of contact with customers, and they are leveraging social media marketing to bring more attention to their many channels of sale. Apart from the web store and the outlet, they also sell on Amazon and eBay.
Each of these choices of sales channels has been made after careful consideration and a few lessons. Olive Planet knew that there were other marketplaces around, but chose to stick with those that have a proven track record of customer service. Pan-India sales have become a possibility, even with just one retail outlet in the country.
Multichannel retail is a smart way to scale up your business. It gives you exposure to new markets, lets you do business with or without a physical presence and helps build brand awareness across channels. If you are keen on selling a specific group of products, it can help you reach customers who are interested but may not be available on just one channel.
The Road Ahead
Six years is a long time to be in the business of selling military gear. Olive Planet is now moving to a model where importance is being given to consumer experience. Fresh perspectives are being brought to the table by Captain Niranth. Like every military operation, they’re moving very swiftly too! Just outside the ‘campsite’ is a new cafe space, built to look like an Army canteen. The cafe goes the extra mile and aims to serve food that is basic, tasty, and can be cooked outdoors. With this, Olive Planet hopes to finally bring in students from the college next door, and hopefully their friends from across Bangalore.
When building the experience center, they’re referring to Harley Davidson. More than just a bike, it is now considered an experience to traverse the harsh Himalayan terrain on a Harley Davidson. Even better if there’s company. To get to that point, the bike manufacturer used several marketing approaches. Each of them has the same focus – to make riding this specific bike an experience in itself.
Ample outdoor space outside the Olive Planet store will serve as a space for workshops. Navigating By The Stars, Cooking In An Outdoor Site, Piloting A Fighter Jet- you name it! Not only do these workshops serve as a meeting space for both casual and corporate events, they can also help build awareness around the ways of the Indian Army. Over time, people are expected to come in not just for the products, but also to learn more and take home something intangible yet precious.
The Primaseller Advantage
The single greatest challenge Olive Planet faced while going online is also the one we strive to solve every day. Multichannel retail comes with one significant problem – inventory issues. How do you keep track of inventory when it is being shipped in multiple directions all over the country? With Primaseller’s dynamic updates to inventory, and inventory syncing across channels and marketplaces, Olive Planet was able to put inventory woes aside and focus on selling.
No more manual counting, and no wondering what would happen if a return or replacement had to be processed. What’s more, with our POS integration and software that works in both outlets and online, you won’t ever need another software product to keep track of billing in-store.
Primaseller also offers accounting integration with both QuickBooks and Tally, a distinct advantage for retailers who depend on Tally but find it hard to integrate with their retail management software. With our customer-oriented updates and new features that are added very often, we just cannot wait to see how Olive Planet, and all of our other customers, put us to even better use!
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Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.