Eateries hit too; staff working on reduced salaries
Bengaluru: Right opposite boarding gate 30 of the Kempegowda International Airport is a brightly lit merchandise store called WK Life London. Despite a variety of goods on offer, stacked neatly across long white shelves, the store is struggling to make ends meet.
“Sales have dipped massively in the past 10-12 days. We are failing to meet our targets,” said Raghu M.G., a sales executive at the store.
WK Life London is one out of many airport retail stores that have seen their revenue plummet due to the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
Yashwanth Kumar, who works as a customer service associate with Hamleys toy store at KIA, informed The Observer: “No one can deny that the second wave has impacted our sales. There has been at least a 40-50% drop in our sales.”
The situation is similar at eateries at airports across India.
Devender Singh, who works as a cashier at Café Buzz at the Chandigarh International Airport, feels that a reduced frequency of flights is impacting business at his shop.
“We get limited flights at Chandigarh now. The ones that come have low occupancy, so naturally the sales will fall. I don’t know how long we can continue like this,” Singh said.
Owing to the loss in revenue, many people working for these retail stores have lost the jobs.
“From May 2020 to February 2021, business was good. But currently we’re suffering. We have less manpower now,” said Anil Kumar Mohanty who works as a personal shopper at KIA’s Shoppers Stop.
The store’s average daily earnings have dropped from Rs 17 lakh a day to Rs 4-5 lakh a day in the last one month, Mohanty added.
“Luckily, neither me nor the other employees has been fired, but we are getting reduced pay for our shifts,” Singh from Café Buzz said.
To avoid getting stuck in lockdowns, most passengers travel in a hurry to return to their hometowns. Therefore they don’t get time to visit retail stores. This has been the main reason for the decrease in footfalls.
“I’m here because I need to rush back home. I just want to reach as soon as possible,” said Tushar Yadav, a passenger waiting at KIA.
Some people believe that the retail stores don’t take the required precautions to fight the virus.
Bikram Mandal, a passenger waiting at KIA to board a flight to Kolkata, said: “I don’t trust these stores with safety. I can see many sales agents in these stores who do not wear their masks properly. Who can guarantee that they follow other protocols properly?”
The pandemic also has brought a change in the customer profiling for retail stores.
“We see less corporates and businessmen these days. These types of customers don’t bother about the price of a product. But now, when more students and young adults are travelling, the price of a product makes a huge difference,” Mohanty from Shoppers Stop said.
Retail stores at airports are now banking on the vaccination drive to restore footfalls to their shops.
Saadab Kesar, team leader of WH Smith at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, said: “All 53 employees in our team have got two doses of Covaxin. If people think that they are safe from the virus, then they might visit us.”
With the Bengaluru International Airport Authority Limited planning to inoculate KIA staff starting May 1, retail stores hope that adhering to safety guidelines and marketing customer safety would bring back their revenues.