A hyper store in a mall in Lucknow on Thursday had only 28 customers till 1.p.m. On normal days, the store is bustling with customers.
“We have 150-member staff, but the number of customers is going down by the day. People are making heavy purchases, but are buying online. Our home delivery services are overbooked because people are shying away from moving out of their homes,” said Shalini, salesperson.
The mall has reduced its supply of green vegetables due to lack of customers.
Another reputed grocery store in Hazratganj, the main city centre, also said that people were placing orders for home delivery on phone.
“Customers are stocking up on pulses, rice, flour, oils and ready-to-eat meals. We are receiving orders for home delivery on phone, but only a few customers are actually coming to the store,” said the owner of the store.
A housewife, Minakshi Chaturvedi, who is stocking up on groceries, said panic has forced her to buy in bulk.
“Almost every hour, a new shutdown is being announced. From schools, to cinema halls, to temples and offices — everything is being shut down. Since the deadly virus is spreading fast, you never know if shops also shut down. I am storing up groceries for at least two months. I am buying staples like ‘rajma’ and ‘chhola’ so that we can survive even without green vegetables,” she said.
Even as uncertainty prevails over shops and malls remaining open in the coming days, it is the staff in these places who are apprehensive of their future.
Most of the staff is employed on an ad hoc basis and they feel that they may lose their jobs in case of a further shutdown.
“We agree that the customer footfall has drastically reduced, but if the shopping centres are shut for a period, there is no guarantee that we will get back our jobs,” said Manish who works in a multi-brand store in a mall.
Restaurants and eateries are also witnessing a major slowdown ever since the COVID-19 scare.
A popular Mughlai restaurant in Gomti Nagar has cut down on the quantity and variety of dishes prepared every day.
“We have almost halved the quantity because customers are not coming in. Party and dinner bookings have been cancelled and teenagers, who form a sizeable chunk of our customers, are also staying away,” said the owner Anand Kumar.
The cooks and waiters in this restaurant, and several other eateries, work on daily wages and the owners are planning to reduce the staff in view of reduction in number of customers.
“The owner has already told me that if things do not improve within a week, I can go home,” said Nandu, who works as a waiter.
The shutdown has also impacted the wholesale market in Lucknow. The grain wholesale market in Yahyaganj and Basmandi has witnessed a dip in sales.
Ram Dulare Agarwal, a wholesaler, said, “With weddings, functions being cancelled due to the virus scare, our stocks are lying unsold. There is no guarantee if things will normalize by May when the wedding season resumes.”