New Delhi: The heads of shopkeeper and trade associations emphasized that markets would liven up after the re-opening of public transport. On Tuesday, retail markets across the city opened to minimal customers.
R K Chawla has been selling footwear in Sarojini Nagar for the past 40 years and he recalls that he has never seen such a situation in his life. His shop was shut down for 15 days during the 1984 riots but this time, it will take him years to recover the losses and to make profits again. He says that he has not seen a single customer since the morning.
Along with him, only 10-12 other shopkeepers had opened their shops in the otherwise bustling market. Chawla said that those shopkeepers who have to pay rent for their shop, have shut down the shop and gone back to their villages. He pays Rs10,000 for his four staff members. There is the added expense of electricity. He says that he will stop opening the shop if the situation does not improve.
The President of the Sarojini Nagar Mini Market Traders Association, Ashok Randhawa, has stated that the lack of life at the market is because of the unavailability of public transport.
He said that the metro is the lifeline of the market. They are expecting more customers after the metro resumes its services. The 600 shops in Sarojini Nagar will follow an odd-even scheme while opening. On Tuesday, only a few shops could be opened because there were several issues left to be discussed with the SDM and Delhi Police. A dispute regarding the temperature gun was unresolved. The Police said that every shop should have a temperature gun while the President said that they will prefer if the temperature check is done at the main gate. They are afraid because even if one person gets the virus, it will result in the sealing of the entire market. Another dispute is about the street hawkers’ entry into the market. After the resolution of these issues, more shops will get opened.
The Connaught place, at the center of the city, was almost barren. The sprawling commercial hub which is a home to more than 1,000 big and small shops witnessed the opening of only 80 shops.
The President of the New Delhi Traders Association, Atul Bhargava, said that a lot of shopkeepers lack the confidence to open their stores in this situation. In a retail market, the odd-even system also does not work as customers want to compare prices and products available in different stores. The Connaught Place is a planned market which has a 10 feet gap between each shop, and it should be taken into consideration. Many shopkeepers have told him that they have had zero sales on Tuesday.
A store manager at Flying Machine, Vikas Luthra, was among those people who saw no customer on Tuesday. He said that they are ensuring that only six people are there inside the store. If anyone tries any piece of clothing, it will be washed. He thinks that the footfall will increase if the metro resumes as the Rajiv Chowk metro station works as a connecting point for many people who want to reach CP.
The Lajpat Nagar and Karol Bagh markets opened with 30% and 48% shops, respectively. The market associations of these markets said that the footfall was almost negligible. The day was spent mostly on arranging and cleaning products.
The President of the Lajpat Nagar Traders Association, Sanjeev Madan, said that the lack of transport also affects manpower. Approximately 90% of the employees use public transport. Using auto-rickshaws is not possible in this current situation as everyone is strained economically.