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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