KOLKATA: The move to call time on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has triggered a distinct change in customer behaviour. People who loved to haggle with vendors to shop for fresh vegetables, milk, bread and fish at local markets are either shopping at AC supermarkets or placing orders with online grocery stores. Also, people who shirked away from cashless payments fearing e-fraud are now using credit cards and e-wallets to settle the bill.
Immediately after the PM announced the demonetization last Tuesday, two hypermarket firms kept the stores open till midnight that evening to cash in on the public frenzy to spend Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes that were going out of circulation. In the three days that followed, sales dipped as people scrambled to banks. But since Saturday, customers are back in the market, and in big numbers.
According to Mohit Kampani, chief executive officer of More, the supermarket brand from the Aditya Birla Group that has 30 stores across the city, sales have increased by a quarter and footfall has gone up by 30%. “In the past four days, stores in Kolkata have recorded a 25% surge in sales. We were never the primary providers of fresh and top-up products like cereals and staples. That is changing fast. Since Saturday, the fresh category has growing by 30-50% over the corresponding period previous week,” he said.
Rashida Khatoon of Elliot Road is frequenting a supermaket not far from her home every alternate day. “I used to go to the supermarket once a fortnight to buy the month’s grocery, home care and personal care requirement. A neighbourhood store supplied the rest during the week. Now I am picking up eveything from the supermarket,” she said.
Other supermarkets like Spencer’s and Reliance Fresh, too, say the average trips by customers has increased from once in 15 days to two-three times a week. “It is a big behaviour change and distinct in outlets located at Free School Street, Elliot Road, Behala, Santoshpur, New Town and Kankurgachhi than those in more suburban locations,” said Kampani. At Spencer’s, fish and meat sales have doubled. Reliance Fresh has recorded a quantum jump in sales of green vegetables. Some even have special offers to woo more customers. Big Bazaar, for example, will offer 5-10% additional discount for cashless transaction between November 17 and 20.
“The primary reason for the shift to supermarkets is not the promise of shopping in a better ambience but a wide array of payment options, including credit cards and e-wallets,” said Rupam Saha of Lake Terrace. At More, payments made through Paytm have increased by 500% in the past week while credit card usage has increased by 50%. “Now three out of four payments are being made by credit cards and two out of 10 by digital wallets,” said an executive manning a cash counter at a supermarket.
The same reason has seen a 30% jump in orders at online grocery stores like Big Basket and Grofers where only 20% transactions are now happening in cash against 50% just over a week ago. Such is the rush of orders that companies are struggling to meet the demand. Lead time for delivery has shot up from 12 hours to 72 hours. “Adding people and delivery vans take 45-60 days and is done according to projections. The demonetization announcement has sent calculations haywire,” said Big Basket founder Hari Menon.
The company used to get 1,800-2,000 orders a day in Kolkata. In the past week, orders have shot up to 2,500 daily. Also, while 15% of the orders came from new customers earlier, since last Wednesday, 26% are for new customers with a big chunk of them ordering vegetables and basic toiletries.