There is a sharp rise in online shopping for basic grocery items, which has coincided with the growing number of vegetable and fruit vendors in the streets
The lockdown has put a stop to all kinds of activities that involved us stepping out of our homes. Shopping is one of them. Though, large grocery stores as well as pharmacies have chalked out ways to allow for shopping while following the social distancing paradigm, there are other trends in grocery buying that Lahore is witnessing today. There is a sharp rise in online shopping for basic grocery items, which has coincided with the growing number of vegetable and fruit vendors you find in the streets.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Pakistan, orders placed via mobile apps in the city have increased greatly. Online grocery stores, such as the services offered by Al-Fatah, Metro and Daraz.pk, along with other more localised avenues such as Basket.pk, Grocer app, 24/7 groceries, Best Buy and Careeb online have seen an increase in the frequency of orders placed.
Previously, there were around 20 online grocery stores in all of Pakistan, but this number has increased with major outlets now offering grocery deliveries, as customers are unable to visit stores frequently. Many companies have informed their customers that due to a high volume of orders, delivery services will most likely be delayed. Similar trends have been seen in China and the UAE in the wake of the pandemic, with the emergence of contactless deliveries in order to maintain social distancing and avoid spreading the virus.
The Carrefour delivery app is an example of a major grocery outlet now offering online service. There are around 5,000 products available on this application which allows customers to shop for “basic” as well as “extensive” items without having to step out of their homes. The administrations at these online stores claim that they ensure all forms of precautions are followed by those in charge of delivering grocery items. Their precautionary measures include wearing facemasks, disposable hand gloves, and disinfecting their clothes and vehicles after each delivery.
Hassan Aftab, a representative from 24SEVEN.pk tells TNS, that there has been a “definite increase in the number of orders received on a daily basis.” He further says that all items available at the store are available for delivery.
He also says that they dispatch all items till 5pm every day, to ensure adherence to the rules of lockdown. The representative points out another safety measure strictly followed by the riders at this company: “a sanitised basket [which] is used for receiving payments and handing over the products so that there is absolutely no contact between the customer and the rider.”
Muhammad Uzair Aftab, CEO of Best Buy Mall, claims that “there has been an 80 percent increase in the amount of orders received ever since the city was locked down.”
With clogging of the small number of delivery services available, customers also try to avoid the increased amount of waiting now involved in home delivery. Some prefer to visit major outlets to shop for basic necessities while getting other items delivered.
He says that his company estimated that online grocery shopping would only increase by 20 percent post lockdown. However, customers are increasingly opting for online delivery services. The basket value, which refers to the amount of items purchased by each customer, has also increased by 60 percent.
Aftab also says that leisure buying has increased: “Grocery stores are the new spots for leisure buying which can contribute to spreading the coronavirus, especially since many people may show up without a mask and gloves, and any molecules will stay in the aisles for up to two hours, putting everyone inside at risk.”
street vendors selling basic grocery items door to door in residential areas have also become common over the past month or so. Sohail, a vegetable vendor from RA Bazaar, is happy because “my customers have increased many times.”
Interestingly, despite the lockdown guidelines, Sohail is able to sell directly to houses till seven in the evening.
The increased prices of grocery items have also not quite affected his customers because it is convenient to buy from home.
Many other Lahoris, however, still prefer going the ‘conventional’ path — they visit grocery stores, even if once in a fortnight, as they are more comfortable and satisfied this way. People ordering online have often complained of poor quality of food items delivered at home.
With clogging of the small number of delivery services available, customers also try to avoid the increased amount of waiting now involved in home deliveries. Some prefer to visit major outlets to shop for basic necessities while getting other items delivered. This new approach towards grocery shopping has also greatly helped shorten the long lines at stores which helps maintain necessary precautions in place.
The availability of street vendors also varies around Lahore. While some areas in Cantt, Defence and GOR have seen a decrease in the amount of street vendors due to strict lockdown enforcement, other areas especially those surrounding Gulberg, Model Town and Garden Town have seen a general rise, as customers fear leaving their homes. Some shop owners in Lahore’s bazaars have also started offering delivery services to nearby homes in order to reach out to more customers while also following the lockdown rules.
Online grocery shopping has also rekindled an older form of shopping from street vendors and door-to-door sellers. These changes in the way Lahoris purchase basic items have provided a reliable alternative to extremely busy supermarkets that are at high risk of spreading the virus. As the lockdown continues these trends are expected to continue.