If you have set foot again in your favourite mom-and-pop store and neighbourhood mall, it would not take long for you to notice that everything is a wee bit different. Or probably, a lot different. For one, there would not be too many pairs of feet sharing floor space with you. There would be those floor markings letting you know where to stand.
With Deepavali approaching, many of these outlets are wooing customers but with a great deal of caution.
Saheli at Cisons Complex in Egmore has introduced what it calls slots for customers who are keen on checking out the latest collection first-hand.
“Each of our stores is 220 sq.ft in dimension and we do not want people crowding; footfall is slowly increasing, and so we have three to four slots a day and each customer is given a window of 45 minutes to one hour,” says Navin Jaswani, proprietor of Saheli, adding that they can accommodate two sets of customers at a time.
What if there are walk-ins?
“There is no window shopping as in the pre-COVID days, so those who come to the complex are serious shoppers and we do not want to lose out on them,” says Jaswani. Saheli has the advantage of having another store at the same complex, so customers either get to wait at its other outlet or they are requested to come after a certain time.
The store has been functioning at the complex since 1992 and has a loyal patronage that keeps its business alive.
“We have been knocking at our customer’s doors through mails on WhatsApp, not to spam them with the latest from our store but to keep them updated,” says Jaswani.
There are certain customers, he says, who are not open to the idea of coming to the store.
“We made a temporary studio set-up in the store where photographs are taken of clothes on a mannequin to suggest styles and fits and shared to give them a feel of how the attire would look,” he says. The selection is couriered or delivered to them.
Rekha’s Boutique at Mookambika Complex in Alwarpet made use of the lockdown to revamp its store. G. Babu, partner, says it has made the store more spacious. The boutique has been engaging with customers via WhatsApp video calls that take them around the latest collection.
There are outlets that have been subtly discouraging people from walking into the store.
Thuli has two outlets — one at Vadapalani and the other at Adyar — and it has opened the former, knowing very well that the shop will garner much footfall during the festival season. The stores run on a different model where used clothes and merchandise are bought by the less-privelaged. Thuli is not encouraging new footfall. Those on its database are called to shop at the Vadapalani outlet, which on an average, is three to four families. Those wanting to give away their gently-used clothes have to ensure they are washed and ironed.
Prisha, a beauty and cosmetic outlet at Alsa Mall in Egmore, has been doing a lot of deliveries.
“When we have a shopper call us enquiring if we are open, we try to find out if they know what they want and suggest to them that they have the option of getting the item delivered,” says Anisha Nichani of Prisha.
They are also seeing people pick up items for their neighbour staying in the same building.
“Or, a person ordering for the entire building and asking us to bill it separately,” she says. “In fact, lockdown brought us a new set of customers,” she says.
At the store, it has done away with testers given to customers who want to buy lipstick and foundations.