Dhaka Tribune hosted the first episode of the DT Spotlight Webinar series titled ‘Eid Business in Corona Pandemic’ on Friday
Business leaders of various sectors have hinted the Covid-19 pandemic will impact the behavioral patterns of consumers and businesses in many ways.
They expressed their views addressing a webinar on Eid business during the pandemic, hosted by Dhaka Tribune on Friday.
Meena Bazar & Meena Click CEO Shaheen Khan said Meena Bazar launched online shopping facilities back in 2012. But it is during the Covid-19 circumstances that people in Bangladesh have started taking up online shopping. They have only now really started to call the store and get their grocery shopping done over the phone.
“People like to personally visit a store to browse, pick up items and talk to the staff. Since many of them have decided to shop from home following the risk of getting infected by the virus, they are leaning towards ordering groceries by calling the store,” said Khan, adding this is a new behavioral change that has been noticed among consumers.
“People in Bangladesh tend to talk to people while shopping. Probably, this is the reason they call the store and order groceries over the phone,” he added.
He said this year, sales have been 7% less compared to last year.
Khan also said this pandemic has made buyers more cautious about food hygiene and the products they receive at their doorsteps. He felt that people will now prefer to do groceries at superstores instead of unhygienic kitchen markets.
e-CAB President Shomi Kaiser also pointed out that buyers were now leaning more towards online shopping than ever before, with restrictions imposed on movement and fear of coronavirus infection at physical stores.
“However, e-commerce sites cover mostly urban areas,” she said, adding that e-commerce needs to be taken to rural areas as well.
Kaiser said, although e-commerce sites have a new-found opportunity in the crisis, 90% of e-commerce stores could not sell their products like before, as buyers were not ordering non-essential items now.
Moderating the webinar, Dhaka Tribune Executive Editor Reaz Ahmad said most shopping areas are still overcrowded during Eid, and that many people are still not accustomed to online shopping here in Bangladesh.
“Disaster” in nonessential goods sector
Speakers at the webinar also noted that physical stores, especially ones which deal with non-essential products, have seen a huge drop in sales in the pandemic, terming it a “disaster.”
Shehryar Burney, executive director of fashion and clothing line Yellow, said: “It has been a disaster. The whole industry is in trouble.”
He pointed out that many people have started to cut back on non-essential expenses. They are not spending on things like clothes and shoes like before. The pandemic has already hit the economy hard and nobody knows what their personal financial situations will be, going forward.
“We have to be very flexible and agile,” he said.
Apex Footwear Limited CEO Rajan Pillai also said that this year their sales figures had nosedived compared to last year’s festive season.
“However, shoppers are buying kids footwear comparatively more than other Apex products,” said Rajan Pillai.
Delivery people at high risk
Business leaders also agreed on making stores as safe as possible for shoppers by sanitizing both shop interiors and products.
“The new normal is sanitization... Safety is the first priority, be it the customer or our staff. We won’t compromise on that,” he said.
Speakers at the webinar also shed light on the health safety of delivery people as they are at high risk of getting infected.
Khan said Meena Bazar was flooded with online orders and the company had to hire around 200 delivery people to meet buyer demand.
He said a few ride-sharing companies like Pathao, Uber, and Shohoz also partnered with grocery stores, helping them deal with the shortage of delivery people.
“We make sure these delivery people get enough safety equipment when they are on duty,” he said.