Letter to BS: Customer mindset is unlikely to change after lockdown

Topics Coronavirus | Lockdown

This refers to “A brand new local world” (June 2). The he­adline indicates a return to an era when traditional retailers held sway. The lockdown ex­perience is encouraging the consumer to prioritise health, sanitation and sustenance over comfort and luxury. The­re is also the fear of unemployment and possible financial erosion. which explains his desire to incur only necessary expenditure. This return to the basics has been necessitated by the desire to save, repay lo­ans and control expenditure — in short, have money in the pocket by avoiding discretio­nary expenditure. This change in consumer focus has led conventional small business with direct customer contact to be­come more efficient.

The nature of the necessities is also undergoing fre­quent changes with the de­ma­nd for new items like gloves, sanitisers and face masks coming to the forefront. The local retailer is capable of meeting these additional requirements with ease and at short notice. More sophisticated business without direct customer contact are burdened with higher establishment costs amidst poor market returns. Their desperation to cut costs has led to the retrenchment of labour. The resultant job loss has triggered migration of la­bour. Labour from distant lo­cations are unlikely to return to big employers and so new sources of income have to be tapped locally. The idea of “small is beautiful” gains in importance in such times.

On the other side, big pla­yers are trying to regain market image by changing focus on delivery of necessities like medicines, disposables, vegetables and fruits. It is also im­portant to note that the customer mindset is un­likely to change after the lockdown is lifted as the atmosphere of pa­nic and un­certainty over the past three months has en­trenched itself in their minds.

C Gopinath Nair  Kochi
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