After staying shuttered for over two months, Mumbaikars stepped out in large numbers, as shops and markets opened on Friday under the state’s phase-wise easing of lockdown. The crowds were, however, far lesser than the pre-pandemic days with most shops and markets reporting fewer footfalls.
Many shops used thermal screeners to check temperature of customers during entry, stickers to mark social distancing, face shields for their staff and no touch leg-operated hand sanitiser stands. From disallowing trials and return of clothes as well as shoes to doing away with make-up tests in cosmetic shops, the shopping experience may not be the same at least for the time being, shopkeepers said.
At Beauty Plaza near Crawford Market, only one person per group was allowed entry, with no more than 20 people at one time permitted inside the multi-storey cosmetics shop.
Thane resident Sneha Shinde had come to Crawford Market with her aunt. “My aunt was asked to wait outside, as only one person was allowed in. I think it’s a good measure to ensure social distancing,” said Sneha who picked up a hair colour.
In other suburbs of the city, some shops took to fully restricting entry of customers, providing them with the items they require outside only.
At Maru Book centre in Kandivali, its owner said 60 customers visited the shop on Friday. “All of them came for school books. We are not letting people touch any items but are directing them to see from a distance and place an order. We directly put it in a bag and hand it to them to ensure minimal contact,” said owner Darshan Maru.
Queues were also seen outside electronics shops with customers wanting to replace or repair phones and laptops. While some savvy shops have started online delivery during the lockdown, many have not turned to technology so far.
“Since we opened today, three carrom boards have been sold. We also sold walkers for children and cycles but do not know if the sale will pick up as before,” said Abbas Dalal, who owns Liberty Stores in Dadar.
Many shopkeepers in the area said that since most of their customers were those traveling from other suburbs on local trains, they do not expect business to pick up till the suburban rail network resumed. This is also a concern of other major markets in the city, including the retailers at Crawford Market and Gandhi Market in King’s Circle.
Shops also opened with a skeletal staff since many of the employees reside in far-flung suburbs or have left the city for their native states.
“Even if there is no business, we have no option but to keep our shops open. There will be no proper business at least till Diwali for non-essential and luxury items, since most people have suffered paycuts or job losses,” said Dinesh Karia, a staffer at Silk Emporium at Dadar TT, a shop known for its saris.
The state government has directed that shops on either side of the road should open on alternate days to avoid overcrowding. In many areas, shopkeepers complained that about confusion regarding this with no clear guidelines on which side has to remain open on the first day.
In Dadar, the confusion cleared only after a visit by civic officials in the afternoon. On Linking Road in Bandra, many shopkeepers said that they were still not aware of their operating days.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner, G North (Dadar, Dharavi) ward, Kiran Dighavkar, said: “There was some confusion among shopowners since the circular was issued late. We have held a meeting with the shopowners and from Saturday, the guidelines will be followed.”
With the numbers still increasing in Mumbai, many also cautioned about the spread of Covid-19 if strict norms are not followed. “Now that things have started reopening, people feel that coronavirus has gone away,” a shopowner in Mulund said, adding that if the number of cases rise now, the lockdown may be reimposed causing further loss to their business.