City retailers reach a middle ground to boost festive sale, help customers shop online and encourage physical shopping with COVID rules in place
Shopping is a huge part of Durga Puja celebrations and the ongoing festivities. But given the global pandemic times, physical shopping is naturally restricted. Besides the digital space picking up pace, what has really appealed to the sellers and buyers alike is ‘phygital’ shopping. Boutiques and studios that were big on exhibition have found a middle ground. They are encouraging customers to check out their social media presence, book online and visit stores selectively with COVID protocols in mind. CT checks out the trend.
Growing online presenceTo keep up with the changing trend, almost all city boutiques and stores are now showcasing their exclusive products on social media. Kavita Samsukha, proprietor, Indian Silk House Exclusives, is thankful that their business acumen for the past six years came in handy in the COVID crisis. “Our digital presence has helped us immensely to sustain in the pandemic. It was a boon that our strong fan following on Facebook and YouTube kept our customers in touch with our brand. We could sell our products from our own web portal and through social media as well. We believe in moving with the changing times, so our foresight to have a presence across channels helped us combat the pandemic,” she said.
Not just the popular stores, digital innovation stories are quite similar for the new kids on the block as well. Rupali Barua, co-owner of a comparatively newly launched shop, Nameg, shared, “One good thing that happened in the pandemic is that we learnt to host our events online. Apart from a series of online exhibitions and sales, we ran various offers, which did very well.”
“We reached out to buyers stuck at home through social media. We organised events on Instagram, Facebook as well as on our website and the response was amazing. Our live online fashion show received several views and a flood of enquiries,” said Rupali.
Focus on making masks, COVID-friendly clothingThey are not stopping at just the digital makeover. Most are welcoming guests at their now upgraded physical stores, keeping all the necessary COVID guidelines in mind and innovating in products to stay afloat.
Suchismita Dasgupta, entrepreneur and designer at Nextiles, who operates from her studio-cum-office, said, “In the initial phase of the pandemic, our sale was very low and we really had no resources. Having enough work for the tailor, weaver etc was turning out to be more difficult. So, I spent a lot of time creating digital content and posting regularly. We also started making masks, COVID-friendly clothing (easy maintenance and with pockets to carry essentials) to keep going. Unless known to us or coming through a known source, we didn’t allow people to come in. Taking shoes off, washing hands and keeping the mask on were some of the steps we followed. We have a balcony attached to my office and studio room. We always kept doors and windows open for cross ventilation when people came to visit us.”
All for a good cause
Singer Lopamudra Mitra’s brainchild, Protha, has a similar benevolent outlook. The boutique caters to the needs of weavers and their employment. “Our store was born out of sheer passion to showcase exquisite weaving techniques of artisans from across India. When the pandemic hit us, I wanted to revive the artisans who were suffering and give them back a part of the livelihood that they had lost. We are very focused on our digital campaigns. As far as the brick-and-mortar store is concerned, we follow complete COVID protocols, such as sanitisation, and encourage patrons to visit us with prior appointments,” she said.
The ratio of online and offline buyers fluctuates
Maintaining the digital as well as the physical presence is a tough balance. Nonetheless, the ratio between digital and physical shopping has been encouraging. “There is a dedicated backend team that responds to our valued patrons as soon as they can. The ratio of digital and physical shopping at our store has been about 70:30,” said Lopamudra.
For Suchismita, there has been an even bigger digital surge. “About 80% of our sales have always been online. The turnover went down but the ratio remained the same. Before the pandemic, we would have people dropping by with appointments and a weekend exhibition-cum-sale organised every six months. But we couldn’t continue that since the pandemic hit us and had our first exhibition only in August,” she said.
Kavita thinks the ratio between digital and physical shopping depends on the lockdowns. “The ratio of buyers online and offline at this time is 2:3 but it has been 3:2 during the peak of the second wave in the months of May-June. Over the past six months, it has been fluctuating just like the number of COVID cases,” she said.
Store owners discourage trials at shop
The biggest bane of turning digital, especially for clothing stores, is that buyers are not allowed individual trial sessions. But how are the boutiques and stores dealing with this? Bappaditya Biswas, partner, Byloom, said that they have stopped trials completely. “We now create dedicated collections for online uploads, creating multiple pieces of the same things to be sold online and ensuring regular uploads. Earlier, it was only saris. But now, we try to upload other products too,” said Bappaditya, whose boutique has a dedicated team of five people working online. Kavita seconds him in this decision but tries to remain a bit flexible for customers. “Our main products are saris and we discourage draping them around in COVID times. But if the customer insists on draping, we do allow it on the clothes one is wearing so that direct touch with the body is minimised,” she said.
Suchismita has a different way to handle the trial queries. “Most garments we sold so far were outside Kolkata, so trials were out of the question. In the city, we mostly send the
garments to the customer’s house and they come back to us with feedback. Our garments have always been mostly bespoke, so people choose their own fabric and design from options provided to them. But during the pandemic, we made garments that were easy maintenance, stylish yet convenient. We
made it in one basic size and upon ordering, we stitched it to the ordered size,” she said.
Lopamudra does not really encourage trials as far as the readymade garments are concerned. “But in case of trials, we immediately use UVC chambers to sanitise the same,” she said.
Source: Times of India