Traders in Noida’s Sector 18 market opened their shops after over two months, following the relaxation in lockdown guidelines as well as in curfew timings for citizens. With overhead costs increasing by the day, traders are hopeful that sales will pick up over the next few weeks as people begin stepping out.
“Customers usually shop if they are around the market for lunch or dinner. If restaurants are not opened, we won’t have footfall,” says Shalabh Gautam, managing a shop selling opticalware. Gautam says most of his customers are buying only what is essential, that too on an order basis. “In my shop, the sale of sunglasses have gone down at least 75 per cent since all the orders have been for spectacles.”
Most shops that opened followed social distancing norms as well as the use of sanitizers at the door. Tina Kahrbanda, who manages a clothing store, said the fear of stepping out continues but our behaviour has to change. “People seem to be scared of coronavirus while some of them have adapted to the conditions. The whole world has suffered, so have we,” she says, as she engages with a few customers at her store.
Puneet, who runs a watch store, says the larger issue is that of salaries and rent. “An entrepreneur like me who runs three stores has to incur monthly expenses of 15-20 lakhs including EMIs, salary and rent. I had closed my shops for at least two months and paid rent and paraphernalia costing at least 60 lakhs from my pocket.” Sushil Kumar Jain, president of the Sector 18 market association, says the issue of rent is still under dispute. According to him, tenants and owners were asked to engage in a discussion to mutually decide the waiver of the rent if any.
The traders and Jain agree a change in market culture is bound to happen. “Customers will only shop for essentials for some time at least and the culture of window shopping will decline,” Gautam says. Jain is also hopeful that going back to the customer may be the way forward. “We are looking at digitilatisation of shops facilitating home delivery or calling customers on an appointment basis. If we stick to just social distancing guidelines at our stores, businesses won’t be profitable” he says.
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