While preparations are still underway at city malls before they can reopen on June 8, Kolkata’s iconic shopping hub, New Market, started welcoming back customers on Monday morning. As customers flocked to the century-and-a-half-old market to experience physical shopping after more than two months, masks, cosmetics, lingerie, shampoo, deodorants and candies saw the maximum takers. For mother-daughter duo Zara and Zeba Timol, who were among the first customers at New Market on Monday, it was more about the experience than shopping needs. “We plan to buy some lingerie and shampoo. But more than that, we wanted to feel the positive vibe that at last everything is getting back to normal, albeit with precautions. We have to help each other overcome our fear and get out of the house while maintaining all safety protocols,” said Zeba.
While most shops are not allowing customers without masks, thermal checks are not being conducted at entry points yet. Many shops are still being sanitised and are expected to reopen soon. The demand for masks seems to be the highest. “Masks have become a fashion accessory now. There were many buyers who came just for that,” said a sales executive from a nearby supermarket.
According to the new norms, shops can run with 50% of their workforce, they must keep sanitizers for customers and follow social distancing norms. While a few happy customers picked their favourite candies from the stores, those who came for Nahoum and Sons, returned empty-handed as the iconic bakery hasn’t resumed business yet. “We are planning to open around June 8. The first phase of sanitisation is done, but we are still sorting out a few things like raw materials, oven issues and most importantly, the labour issue. Since local transport and trains are still not fully operational, it is difficult for our workers to join work. But we are trying to work out something for our customers, keeping all safety standards in mind,” Jagadish Chandra Haldar from Nahoum’s told us on the phone.
Some other shops in the complex have also decided to open on June 8. While we’ve been hearing that sale of lipsticks is set to go down as women will mostly wear masks now on, Amartya Shaw from Royal Stores believes it is temporary. “Maybe demand for lipsticks will decline for now and women will buy more of eye makeup. But that’s temporary. Wearing lipstick makes women feel more confident and it will never go out of fashion,” he said.
Traders wary but hopeful
“Our shop is being thoroughly sanitised as we care for our safety as well as our customers. Our sales executives are wearing gloves and masks and we are keeping sanitisers for customers too. Eating inside the shop is prohibited now. With Durga Puja approaching, I am sure business will start looking up soon.”
— Rajesh Ahuja from Dayaram And Company
“I don’t know how social distancing will be maintained here. Thermal checks are necessary, but it hasn’t started yet. We have sanitised our shop ourselves. Many customers called us today to ask if it’s safe for them to come and collect what they had ordered before the lockdown. I guess people will start coming in gradually.”
— Vinayak Barwani from Asian Arts
“We will allow one or two customers at a time. Smoking, chewing and spitting are strictly prohibited inside the market complex. But I really doubt whether or not it will be followed strictly ”
— Norkila Sherpa from Chamba Lama
Source: Times of India