Online shopping temporary, people will revisit stores: Starmark CEO Gautam Jatia
Despite the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, India entered into Unlock 1 paving way for the reopening of restaurants, malls, religious places. Starmark, Kolkata's bookstore chain, has also thrown its gates wide open for its customers. Has the footfall been the same or the scenario changed? Starmark's CEO Gautam Jatia was in conversation with India Blooms correspondent Souvik Ghosh
The Starmark stores reopened on Jun 8. How has been the footfall?
The footfall is much less than normal…but it was expected. We are getting about 50 per cent sales. I think it will take some time for people to feel comfortable to go out shopping.
What are the steps you have taken to maintain social distancing inside the stores?
First of all, we have created pathways, mostly unidirectional, where we are encouraging people to travel. Our stores are very well spread out, so there is no problem. We are having regular sanitization and thermal screening. All our employees are wearing masks, and gloves. With the increase in footfalls, we will adopt a unique software where we will restrict the number of people entering the stores. So upon reaching a certain number, the security will restrict the entry of people into the stores.
Have you thought about the number of people who can stay in a store at a time?
The mall has permitted one person per 75 sq.ft.. So by and large, we are going to follow that guideline.
With Covid-19 outbreak, people’s way of living has changed. Do you fear people will go for online shopping instead of visiting stores?
My personal view is that human beings like to interact, go out and engage in activities. So online shopping will have its own space. There are people who avail online shopping facilities because of convenience.
But the majority of people who also love to go out, will certainly visit the store. I don’t think physical shopping will ever die down. It will always be there. Now, because of Covid-19, online shopping will do better, but later physical shopping will come back to normal.
As it is completely uncertain when the pandemic will end, do you think footfalls in stores will increase by the next couple of months?
People's fear about Covid will go away when they will realise that the disease is not fatal, or when a vaccine has been developed. People got scared because there were so many deaths reported, but in India, the cases of death are fewer compared to other countries even though the total number of infections has gone up considerably. The fear will go away once a medical solution comes, or when people realise the recovery rate is rising in India.