Standalone shops as well as retail and wholesale markets in Kolkata are reworking their business models to adjust to the lockdown norms. Instead of reopening the brick and mortar stores, traders of non-essential commodities are looking at direct delivery to customers, either to their homes or at a mutually agreeable point. The state has already given its nod to this mode of conducting business.
“Instead of customers coming to shops, we will now take the goods to their homes,” Confederation of West Bengal Trade Associations president Sushil Poddar told TOI.
According to traders, there is pent-up demand for hardware goods, textile products, books and stationery, utensils, spare parts for automobiles, parts for computers, cellphones, plumbing components and containers. Traders have been getting multiple calls from customers since shops shut on March 19. With customers initially focusing on stocking food at home, supply and sale of these goods had come to a halt.
“We have been receiving calls from all across the city and beyond from customers and small traders who say there is a demand and that supply should resume. We are, therefore, looking at segregated supply of merchandise from wholesale points to retail points or to the customers’ doorsteps. This model can work without full-scale store operation. Business can resume with a skeletal workforce and strict adherence to social distancing norms,” explained Poddar.
According to the government order, only standalone, neighbourhood kirana stores, book stores, paint shops, mobile recharge and repairing shops, and hardware stores will be allowed to operate from Monday. However, without the wholesale trade, these stores will exhaust their stock in days. This is why the wholesale trade needs to function.
“Under the current circumstances, when our staff cannot come, when customers cannot reach us, it is better to reach out customers. Since the standalone neighbourhood shops are parts of our family, we can sell things through them. This would help us stay afloat and look after our staff,” said Arvind Singh, a wholesaler of electronic goods.
Amid the confusion of the central government notification for opening shops and the state’s reluctance over compromising social distancing norms in red zones, traders on Wednesday opened the back-end supply chain of non-essential merchandises to retailers. Traders feel it may not be safe or viable to open shops without adequate staff or buyers.
“We are asking retailers of make specific appointments with wholesalers so there is no crowding. The retailer will come at the appointed time, pick up his merchandise and leave. This will also add to efficiency of the system without affecting the supply chain,” said a wholesaler at Old China Bazar.
Some cellular service outlets and repair shops, like tyre repair shops, refrigerator and AC repair stores and shops that sell spectacles, have already resumed business in non-containment areas of the city.
Source: Times of India