Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, August 5
Post relaxations of imposed curbs, shopping trends in the region have taken a peculiar shape. As life continues to limp back to normalcy in the markets, consumer behaviour, however, is yet to adapt to the pre-lockdown spell. The change has seen local customers spend more on essentials such as grocery and household supplies, while demand for garments, footwear, gifts and travel has dramatically dropped.
After no business for almost two months, garment shop owners opened their stores on May 17. Since then they have been reeling from the effects and trying to make up for the losses. Being aware of the fact that people are still hesitant as the Covid threat is still looming large; the best bet of the current times is switching to online sale of merchandise.
Anil Kumar, a local ladies garment dealer at Rainak Bazaar, says, “Though shopkeepers are opting for all available avenues to counter the setback faced, the absence of customers has hit businesses hard. Earlier, we used to make 50-60 deals in a day. Now, we are just making 8-10 deals after sitting for over 10 hours in the shop.” The business has reduced to 40 per cent and is hardly making up for his expenses. “We are currently relying only on our old customers,” Kumar adds. The weekends, once, was the high time but now due to restrictions “the sale on weekends remains dry.”
Similarly, owner of Ganesh Cloth House, feels customers’ response is pathetic this year as compared to 2019. Taking a jibe on bringing business back on tracks, he adds, “We need same kind of panic buying that surfaced in March during the announcement of curfew.”
A switch to online platforms
Undoubtedly, maximising sale through online modes has emerged as the most popular option. While the businessmen and shopkeepers in the city are perturbed over the downfall in the profit, a recent report on the impact of Covid-19 on consumer behavior by McKinsey & Co, published in July, after conducting weekly, bi-weekly and monthly surveys in 12 countries, highlighted that 92 per cent Indians have changed their behavior amid the crisis.
Many urban consumers, increasingly working from home are reluctant to visit crowded public places and are going online for their shopping needs. If demonetisation had compelled people to shift towards cashless payments, Covid has lured them into shopping online. Hence, traders are getting themselves acquainted with digital platforms, and retailers and wholesalers are also hiring delivery personnel and training the staff for e-commerce.
Rehmat Collections, a leading retail garment shop near Babrik Chowk, has also adopted similar means to boost up sale. Training of staff wherein video call demonstrations and phone bookings for contactless delivery of goods are being taught as they hang by new measures to get back into groove.
Arjun Papneja, the owner, says the lockdown had starved their business. The last two months were crucial. That was the time for winter stock clearance and bringing in the summer one. “Utilising the relaxation time of 9 am to 8 pm, we are making all efforts to increase the sale while ensuring social distancing at our shop. Not more than two-three customers are entertained at a time and are also directed not to rush outside the shop.”
“We have circulated our phone numbers among our clients. They take appointment prior to coming,” Papneja adds. Apart from this, they are also offering free home delivery facility. “Our staff assists clients in choosing outfits and after selection we hire workers to deliver it on their doorstep,” he shares.
In a bid to make up for the loss, the retailers have also slashed the prices of garments. “We have cut prices by 30-50 per cent,” Papneja tells.
A visit to shopping malls is no longer the same. The entry is granted only after strict adherence to guidelines. Safety and hygiene of the customers are the top priority. “Visitors look for reassurance and visible safety here. Consumers are wary but they still have needs. Hence, we have adapted to the new normal to make sure patrons feel safe while shopping,” An official at the Lifestyle store in Viva Collage mall was quoted as saying.
While sale of masks with matching outfits have gone up, the lack of buyers is not the same as before. The closure of eating joints and cinema halls has massively affected the customer count. Only essential items are being sold in good numbers these days.
Likewise, joint managing director of MBD Group, Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, says, “Retail business started in the unlocking phase; we have seen growth in sales and footfall now after Unlock 3.0. Retailers & Mall patrons at MBD Neopolis mall in Ludhiana and Jalandhar are adapting to the new ways of conducting business. We are sitting at 50 to 60% of trading figures compared to last year at the moment and it is improving on a monthly basis and sale numbers are gradually gaining pace.”
Sports equipment a big hit
Amid lockdown many people gravitated towards fitness. While sales in most of the malls remained minimal, the sporting brands have managed to keep head above the water. Jatinder Singh, Decathlon store manager at the MBD mall, says, “We managed 20-30 per cent sale as people purchased sports and fitness equipment. People also showed interest in purchasing bicycles as the lockdown motivated them to go green.”
Labour shortage woes
After witnessing a huge downfall in their profit for two months, the shortage of labour has now become a major issue. Owners of many stores are either asking their workers to come back or are pasting posters outside their retail outlets to recruit manpower.
Customers are keen as well as cautious to visit malls. Window shopping has minimised, but actual buyer wants to shop and does shop without hassles. Mall patrons and mall managements both are cautious and using all preventive methods to create awareness about hygiene.— Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, A resident
Training of the existing staff, video call demonstrations and phone bookings for contact-less delivery of goods are among the new measures being adopted to bring the business back on track. Not more than 2-3 customers are entertained at a time and they are also directed not to rush outside the shop.— Arjun Papneja, Rehmat Collections
The business has reduced to just 40 per cent that hardly makes up for our expenses. We are currently relying only on our old customers. Besides, owing to the restrictions in movement, the sale on weekends remain dry. We are desperately waiting for markets to return to normalcy.— Anil Kumar, Garment Dealer at Rainak Bazaar
This is the first summer that our frequent visits to the markets have hung up. Being a shopaholic, I and my friends used to visit every store and shops to check what new stock was available in the market, but now, we are just sitting at homes scrolling e-commerce sites. I only prefer to bring clothes on my own. — Mayuri Muskan, a resident
Instead of making frequent visits to the market, we prepare a list of items that we need and step out of our homes only once or twice a month. This way, we not only maintain our safety, but also equip ourselves with fresh stock. Also, we have avoided purchasing readymade garments this time. — Manju Mathpal, A resident
Luckily, I don’t like to shop much and during the lockdown, I didn’t buy any new clothes or shoes. I went out to buy groceries and other household items only. Moreover, I even asked my family to refrain from frequent market visits. Along with fruits and vegetables, we bought groceries on the same day. — Jaipaul Kalia, A resident
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