Grocery shop owners face a new challenge in the pandemic

Business City Pandemic

Old-time grocery shop owners are struggling as more people are opening up similar stores due to job losses during the lockdown.

Kolkata: Due to the emergence of new grocery stores, existing grocery shop owners are finding it difficult to survive in this pandemic. The sudden lockdown had resulted in many job losses. As a result, the easiest way for people to earn their living was to open up new grocery stores.

Customers are finding it easy to go to nearby grocery shops which have opened recently. They do not have to travel for 15–20 minutes as they did to go to their previous shops. Sukhanti Ganguly, the owner of a grocery store named Aparajita, talked about his struggles.”The new grocery shops and online shopping have opened up a lot of options for the people. I have faced an enormous loss. It has not only affected my business but my personal life as well,” said the shop owner.

Soshodhor Pradhan, shopkeeper of Tara Stores, had similar problems. “The first two months were hectic. People wanted to store as much food as they could. But the scenario started to change from the third month. The number of customers started going down. More grocery stores opened up. It became easier for the people in the neighbourhood to go to their nearby shops,” said the shopkeeper. Shakti Podo Ghorai, the owner of New Matri Bhandari, has been in this profession for years.  “The old customers are coming in regularly as most of them don’t shop online that much. Only the new grocery shops which have opened up in every nook and cranny of the streets have changed our business. The customers are coming in small numbers,” said Shakti.

The ones who had different professions before the pandemic decided to open new grocery stores to earn their bread and butter. Sanjib Ghosh of Aroti Bandar was in the gold business previously. It has only been three months since he opened his shop. “I was a worker in the gold business. But, after the sudden lockdown, I had to leave the business as I wasn’t getting enough money. I had to look after my family. After taking loans from my friends, I have opened up this shop. I will continue this profession in the coming years,” said Sanjib. 

Bikash Halder, who was a waiter at Arsalan, decided to open his grocery store after the lockdown. “I have been running this shop for six months now. It has been going well, and I won’t go back to my previous job after all of this is over. I have invested most of my savings in this profession,” said the storekeeper. Abhijit Dey was an auto driver before he decided to change his profession. “After the lockdown, I couldn’t continue my profession of being an auto-driver for some months. That’s why I decided to open this grocery shop. I put all of my money behind this. I don’t think I’ll go back to my earlier job now,” said Dey.

Mitali Biswas, a dance teacher, has been going to her local grocery store for years. But, when a small grocery shop opened up in her neighbourhood after the lockdown, she started buying some items from there. “Due to the pandemic, it has become easier for us to purchase groceries from this shop. I have been going to my previous grocery shop even after the lockdown. But sometimes, I forget some items while shopping. So, when I miss out on one or two things, I visit this store,” said the dance teacher.  

Kushumika Das, a student of Shri Shikshayatan College, said it has become easier for her to shop groceries because of the small grocery shop which has opened up very close to her house.”My family goes there frequently. It has been useful to us as we can purchase items whenever we run out of groceries,” said the third-year student.  

But, Sohini Biswas, who works at HDFC bank, said the new grocery store which had opened near her house after the lockdown, hasn’t helped her much. “Though I buy eggs and spices sometimes from this new shop, I prefer going to my previous grocery store. This new shop hasn’t made much difference to me,” said Biswas. 

Kandarp Singh, a research scholar pursuing a Fellow Programme in Management from International Management Institute, Kolkata, said, “Due to this pandemic, the grocery stores are facing difficulty to sustain in the market. There is no exact time frame that can be predicted to overcome the losses. But, to survive and sustain this pandemic the stores need to make some adjustments.” He said more customers would come if the grocery stores start accepting cashless payments. They should ensure they have enough stock to meet the demands of the customers, and that they can home deliver. If the grocery stores manage to implement these steps, then they can recover from their financial losses, he said. 

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