In the post COVID world, where experts suggest that we need to coexist with the virus, we observe shocking changes in our lifestyle. As we walk out of our homes, we are up in our anti-Corona gear. We wear a facemask, hand gloves, full-sleeve clothing, carry sanitiser bottles and sprays; wear hairnets and basically look as though we’re ready for conducting surgery. Yes! the COVID-19 pandemic has made our lives circle around paranoia and prevention. The true test of “The survival of the fittest” can be witnessed today.
Even though we have the option of online-shopping, there is nothing that can replace the joy of passing by apparel, looking at mannequins, posing in front of huge mirrors, swiping our plastic money, and finally walking out with our newly purchased items.
This experience, however, has been hugely affected by the monstrous Coronavirus, but shoppers seem to challenge it. Many shoppers are also seen oblivious to the virus as if the virus can’t enter their favourite shopping places. Weekend footfall seems normal, and it almost looks like people are not deliberately stepping out in the market to avoid boredom, and also binge on some retail therapy.
Speaking to The Wonk, a managerial staffer at one of the Pantaloons stores said: “Since we are a stand-alone store, we were allowed to open up earlier than malls. As and when we opened our Pantaloons store, consumers tried to feed their pent-up buying. It was unexpected, as we were expecting a lesser crowd. If we talk about absolute sales in numbers, yes, they have drastically declined. People are coming out, and the footfall seems pretty much normal. However, we haven’t recovered from the lockdown’s losses. Compared to last year’s figures, there has been a decline, but again we do observe an upward trajectory. The store opens at 10:30 am. As per government norms, there can be only 1 person in the 150 sq. feet, and since we are a big store of about 21,000 sq feet, we have the liberty to invite more people in accordance with the social distancing norms. At any time, I can accommodate 150 people in my store, including the Pantaloons staff.”
Return, exchange and trial of garments
The baggage counter services were halted by many stores in order to avoid the exchange of the virus. Many stores did have designated points for shoppers to keep their belongings safe. However, most stores urge their customers to keep their additional belongings in their respective vehicles themselves, since most shoppers travel by private transport. The token system is eliminated post-COVID so as to reduce touchpoints.
At Pantaloons, any merchandise or garments that come for exchange are sent for a quarantine of 36-hours before they are displayed for sale. Many stores were steaming and sanitising apparel.
“We are sticking to government norms and are also urging people to do the same. We sanitise frequent touchpoints. Fixtures and shopping bags get sanitised multiple times throughout the day. All our staff members are kept in check and cared for,” said a Store Manager.
Home delivery of items and essentials became the new normal during the COVID-19 lockdown. With Unlock in place, many brands and stores have started home visits to deliver services and increase sales. Though there is traffic on the roads and crowds in market places, there is still a huge chunk of consumer base which is locked up in their houses to avoid the coronavirus contraction. Mochi shoes, for example, have started home visits where they showcase items through video conferencing. At first, a ‘home appointment’ is scheduled. The selected items are then carried in suitable sizes and colour options to the customer’s doorstep by a super salesman. Mochi shoes also provide a 20% discount for the COVID-19 frontline workers.
The new normal?
People’s take towards COVID, people who are stepping inside big stores, don’t really care. There are times when staff members have to prompt and remind shoppers to maintain social distancing, wear masks and use sanitisers.
By Kunjan Ahluwalia