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Business in the times of Corona – an IndiaRetailing insight (Part-1)

IndiaRetailing finds out how far-reaching are the effects of Coronavirus on businesses in its 4-part series across different industry sectors and whether it is as bad as one believes it to be or is it just fear psychosis that has gripped the over-cautious shopper!

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The minute I swerved my car to enter the parking lot of one of Noida’s leading malls that’s usually teeming with people at any given day and time, I knew something was not quite the same. On other weekends, this very same parking space is crawling with vehicles as enthusiastic shoppers fight for space. It’s common knowledge that getting a spot at 6 pm on a Sunday is next to impossible. But today, amazingly, there were still several vacant spots.
Security at a mall in Noida
The parking attendant handed over the ticket and made a fervent plea to give him an extra 10 bucks because the number of cars coming had supposedly halved. To say that the number of people outside the mall was sparse would actually be an exaggeration.
That’s the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic.
It was, however, reassuring to see the security personnel at the entrance donning clean gloves and masks firmly in place. Also, a bottle of hand sanitizer on the frisking table told its own story. (Last week though, in another mall, the security seemed blissfully unaware of the need for safety measures and yours truly had to bring up the issue with the mall management.)
Inside the mall, however, it was the same story—the bustling, pushing mass of shoppers was conspicuous by its absence. My curiosity led me to visit some of the usually-crowded outlets that see virtual stampedes during weekends, and see for myself if the effect of COVID-19 was real.
While the Delhi government had ordered strict measures at malls and other business establishments to be followed, while shutting theaters, pubs, gyms, etc. till further notice, in nearby Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government on Sunday however clarified that malls will remain open.
This should mean shoppers from Delhi should have thronged the malls of Noida.
But not today. Pantaloons, the mid-range clothing retail chain, which usually witnesses a good average daily footfall, was virtually empty. Shoppers Stop, Iconic, Reliance Trends, Pepperfry Store—you name it and it was the same story. All one could see was sales persons huddled in conversation occasionally eyeing the entrance hopefully.
It was as if I was strolling around the mall after a late night movie – except that the shutters were up today.
Thankfully, Chaayos on the ground floor and Big Bazaar a level lower, brought some cheer. One could see several tea lovers sipping their favourite flavours in Chaayos like any other normal day, except that when you noticed some had masks hanging from their necks you were reminded of the grim reality the world is facing collectively.
At Big Bazaar, most of the sections I visited were empty. Most of the people were shopping in the grocery section. Even the non-veg section was empty. Upon enquiry, a visibly bored salesman across the counter said that people were not buying non-veg because of ‘Corona’.
The adjacent mall too had very thin attendance. After two weekends of mall hopping, one can’t help but conclude that the panic created by Corona amongst shoppers is real and present. But in order to find out how deep-rooted this panic is and how deeply it has hurt businesses, we decided to get it straight from industry stalwarts across sectors.
Through this 4-part series, you will learn how Coronavirus has affected businesses and how they have managed to remain active despite reduced crowds.
Today, let’s find out what the food and beverage sector players have to say about the effects of Coronavirus and the subsequent panic being created around it:
Nitin Saluja, founder of Chaayos tells us: “I have one word to describe the sentiment—panic. As for business, it’s down by 30-35 percent.”
On the steps they are taking to build confidence among customers that Chaayos’ outlets are safe for them, Nitin told, “We are doing everything to make sure our cafes and team and thus, our guests, are super safe.”
In fact, Nitin went on to share his establishment’s commercials wherein Chaayos details what they are doing to ensure that customers are safe in their cafes.
Meanwhile, Puneet Gulati, CEO of Barista told “Our business has definitely been impacted. We see protective measures taken up by the central and state governments to curb the spread of the virus. We have seen a dip of 10-12% owing to fewer footfalls at malls and high streets.”
“We are working hard to ensure continuity of our supply chain and reinforcing all the procedures to ensure personal hygiene like regular hand washing, sanitising food, etc. amongst our staff!”
“At this time, our main objective is to ensure the safety of our employees as well as guests,” avers Puneet.
Akash Kr. Kalra, owner of United Coffee House which supposedly has felt the effects of the current outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) the most, tells “It is very unfortunate that Covid-19 has been declared a pandemic. Due to this, there is an anxiety among consumers. This anxiety has resulted in a drop of about 80% in the business.”
“Schools, colleges and cinema halls (theatres) being shut, as well as all visas being cancelled for travel has instilled fear among people, which is why there has been a significant drop in footfalls and reservations.”
“There has been 80% drop in the business due to the fear and panic among consumers with an increasing number of cases being detected in the country,” Akash further said.

Big Bazaar women's clothing section
The absolutely empty women’s clothing section of Big Bazaar on a Sunday evening

On the precautions/measures his staff was taking to boost customers’ confidence that he was doing what needs to be done to check the spread of the virus, he said: “The United Group has always followed the hygiene norms required to run a restaurant. The chefs and kitchen team are asked to wash their hands and use sanitizers at regular intervals and it has always been a mandate to wear gloves while working in the kitchen. The same is applicable for the service staff and managers: to wash their hands regularly and use sanitizers and also ensure (double check) everything is clean and hygienic. There are sanitizers placed at all side stations and bar tops for use.”
When pointed out that in many places in the US and other countries, restaurants have reduced the number of tables to increase the distance between diners and whether his establishment was also doing something similar, he told us: “Due to the drop in footfall and reservations, the restaurant is usually half empty so doing something like that is not actually required as the limited tables that are occupied are at a distance or the people dining are choosing distant tables themselves.”
How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected the beauty and wellness industry, if at all? We’ll find out tomorrow what the experts in this sector have to say. Watch this space for more updates!
Meantime, if you own a business, share with us at [email protected] your efforts to ensure that your establishment is safe for consumers.

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