With markets in the national capital opening at full strength from Tuesday, market associations said they are yet to decide on a strategy that would facilitate full-scale operations while ensuring the safety of both shoppers and shopkeepers. This includes creating protocols for return and exchange of purchased items, trials of clothes, shoes, accessories, gadgets, electronic goods and utensils and all such activities where "touch" would be a necessity. Traders say the situation is tricky as they need to balance both sales and the safety of staff and customers.
On Monday, the Delhi government announced Delhi-specific guidelines for the phased reopening of the city after the fourth phase of lockdown ended on May 31. Shops in markets were allowed to reopen from May 18 alternately open through the week, on an odd-even numbering system devised by the government.
With store owners across markets opting different strategies to regulate entry of visitors and the "try and buy" system to minimise contact, customers are in for a different shopping experience. All shops are required to maintain social distancing and cannot have more than five persons inside a unit at a time.
Most store owners across major markets including Connaught Place, Khan Market, South Extension, Chandni Chowk and Greater Kailash said they will urge customers to try on clothes only if it's absolutely essential and avoid doing so if they are familiar with the sizes and fit of a particular brand.
Others said they will experiment with sanitising products after each trial using a mild spray so that fabrics don't get spoiled. Jewellery items can be tried and sanitised later, which is the case with bags and other such accessories.
Traders at the South Extension-1 and 2 markets, which have a large number stores selling apparel, jewellery, and accessories said they will hold a meeting with all shop owners to decide on a common protocol before relaunching full-scale operations. "So far, the footfall at the market has been too low. Now with markets allowed to open every day, we expect more customers to arrive. A common strategy has to be devised for all stores. We have already instructed all stores to hand over a pair of disposable gloves to customers upon entry. We are yet to take a decision on trials and exchanges," Vijay Kheterpal, member, South Extension-1 market association, said.
Store owners in Connaught Place and Khan Market said most of them are running franchises of various international brands, and they will wait for instructions from the brand head offices.
Shopkeepers in markets such as Janpath and Sarojini Nagar, who mainly deal in accessories, footwear and clothing, said it will be tough for them to manage sales in this scenario, as items are on open display and are touched multiple times by customers. Most shops in these markets do not have trial rooms. "We plan to sanitise the items after it is touched by a customer. There was no trial policy earlier as well and now we will give a 10-day window to customers for exchanging/returning items," Ashok Randhawa, president, Sarojini Nagar Mini Market Association, said.
Traders in the Chandni Chowk market, who had voluntarily shut shop till May 31, said they were apprehensive that given the dingy lanes and crowding in Old Delhi, maintaining social distancing would be a huge challenge. The market houses all kinds of goods from clothes and daily use items to electronics.
Besides, most of the electronic goods stores said that they were allowing customers to touch only select products. For instance, appliances such as television sets, and mixers and blenders, do not require the customer to touch it and a demonstration can be given by the staff wearing masks and gloves.
"Many of our standalone stores are already open. We allow customers to handle only mobile phones and laptops where touch is a necessity for purchase. The gadgets are sanitised after each such use. For the rest of the products, the customers will not be allowed to handle them," Ritesh Ghosal, chief marketing officer, Croma, an electronics appliances and gadgets retailing chain, said.
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