SHOPPING IN PANDEMIC

Covid revolutionises shopping as customers now click to buy

Local grocery stores gained traction as mall-based shops took a big hit during the virus-induced lockdown

Covid revolutionises shopping as customers now click to buy

Local markets are struggling to find shoppers as Covid cases are rising rapidly in Amritsar district. Photo: Sunil Kumar

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 10

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way retailers and shoppers did business as the restrictions on movement meant fewer people turning up at shops to buy stuff. Fashion retailers have taken the biggest hit, and next in line are consumer item retailers. While the shift towards online shopping and retailing seems permanent, only the re-opening of all sectors might bring the charm back to markets.

The biggest wholesale shopping hub in the walled city here has been buzzing with commercial activity ever since ‘unlocking’ of sectors of economy, the footfall has dropped by 30 per cent to 40 per cent, according to businessmen. The reluctance on the part of consumers to visit crowded markets, the new found ease of online retailing and shift towards digital transactions are some of the many reasons retailers are still struggling to attract shoppers.

“The lockdown has drained our savings. After the Covid outbreak, the business has taken a hit as the city is reporting rise in Covid 19 cases every passing day, which is a major deterrent. Retailing has also suffered a blow from the surge in online shopping which people have now become accustomed to,” shared Meetpreet Singh, a fashion apparel retailer in the Putlighar area.

Despite adapting to the new safety norms after re-opening, retailers of consumer goods, electronic goods and household items are not finding many customers. “We are working amid all precautions and also making our customers aware of the safety measures being adopted by us. We have seen a drop of 40 per cent in customers who have now started using e-commerce platforms,” says Bhuvan Arjun, an electronic goods retailer in Hall Bazaar.

The surge in e-shopping has also pushed local retailers to use the digital space and offer services such as home delivery and cashless payments. Malls, too, have suffered because of the low footfall. Weekends provided some relief for business with two most visited shopping malls in the city attracting good crowd. But the weekend restrictions dealt a new blow.

Pooja Arora, a retail industry expert from the city, says the impact of shoppers shifting to e-commerce websites will be felt for long. “There is still a possible health risk for people going out for shopping. The e-commerce platforms offer safe shopping from the comfort of your home and with value-added services. The shoppers have been spoilt for choice during the lockdown with growth in e-commerce websites, even the locally sourced ones.”

Rise of local kiryana stores

Before the lockdown, local grocery stores had lost business due to the rise of big, corporate fuelled grocery chains that were offering one stop shop for household needs. But the lockdown changed everything. Local and small kiryana/ grocery stores were allowed to open during the lockdown and they quickly adapted to the new normal of home delivery of goods and digital payments.

With customers finding their way back to these local stores even after the lockdown, the stores have emerged as the new supermarkets. “We set up a network of zero contact deliveries during the Covid-19 lockdown. We have been getting a good response and people have started reposing faith in us. Since we allow only a few people at a time, the safety of customers doesn’t get compromised,” says Satpal Narang, the owner of a grocery store in Chheharta.

Even big supermarket chains such as D-Mart have launched mobile-based applications allowing customers to place orders of grocery online. Almost all major grocery stores in the city are providing service on atleast one digital platform, in addition to entertaining walk-in customers.

Pop up fashion exhibitions save the day

In the absence of shopping exhibitions that were an annual affair for city shoppers, pop-up online exhibitions are becoming a new trend. The concept of online pop-up exhibition brings an array of service providers and products directly to consumers via digital platforms. The products and brands displayed are offered along with heavy discounts and promise of home delivery. The contacts of brand owners and businesses are provided where orders can be placed within a few days.

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