Shopkeepers waiting in Lucknow, but customers wary

Lucknow, May 22 (IANS) As the markets reopened in Lucknow on Friday, an eerie silence prevailed in several shopping areas in the state capital.
Grocery stores did not witness the expected rush, but people made a beeline for unusual items.
“A number of people came to buy battery cells for wall clocks and remotes. These were listed as non-essential items and we did not sell them earlier,” said Rajiv Khare, a salesman at a grocery store.
Queues were also seen outside shops selling slippers and shoes. One of two ladies, who had to wait for about 40 minutes for their turn to enter the shop, said, “My bathroom slippers had broken last month and I could not buy a new one. This time I am buying two pairs of slippers. This is not the kind of thing that one stores up on.”
Customers were seen in large numbers outside optical stores. Some came for new glasses, while others came for repairing their old ones.
Dry cleaners were also visited by their regular customers who had come to collect their orders.
“We had only those customers whose clothes could not be delivered due to the lockdown. There were no new customers asking for service,” said S.N. Srivastava, who owns a dry-cleaning shop in the Hazratganj area.
Book stores, meanwhile, witnessed long lines of customers who came to buy books for their children as the shop owners had a tough time ensuring social distancing.
Ritesh Kumar, a parent, said, “Despite online classes, children were having problem in studying without books. We also needed stationary.”
Stores selling magazines and novels, however, wore a deserted look. “There have been no magazines since the past two months so we did not expect any customers today. However, since we also sell birthday cards and other gift items, we expect some more customers in the coming days,” said a shop owner.
Sweet shops, meanwhile, did good business on Friday even though none of them had the full range of sweets.
Nilabh Agarwal, a sweet shop manager, said, “We are not making ‘chhena’ sweets because the district authorities have allowed us to open on alternate days and these sweets do not have a long shelf life. But most of the customers who came today asked for ‘chhena’ sweets that sell in summers.”
The stores selling saris and suits also had very few customers even though Eid is round the corner and the wedding season begins next month.
A few people who came for window shopping said that they did not wish to splurge at a time when most family members had suffered pay cuts.
An elderly person summed up the situation when he said, “People are afraid, not only of coronavirus, but also of an uncertain future. They do not know what tomorrow holds for them and this is holding them back from indulging in retail therapy to uplift the mood.”

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