RADHICA DE SILVA
It’s a few days before the opening of the new school term and bookstore owners have found innovative ways to reduce traffic at their stores in light of COVID-19.
Usually, at this time stores are overflowing with throngs of people desperate to get last-minute supplies for their children.
At Keith Khans Bookstore in Navet Road, San Fernando, director Khalid Khan said he successfully managed to reduce the flow of customers by offering to prepare booklist packages beforehand.
“We had a free email service and Whatsapp service for customers and they could send us their lists beforehand and then come to the store at specific times to collect their books,” he said.
He added that there was also curbside pickups as well as a courier service that delivers books to customers at any part of the country.
“We have had deliveries in Cedros, Toco, Port-of-Spain and San Fernando and many other places. The cost depends on the weight of the books so between 10 to 50 pounds, it could cost a maximum of $33,” he said.
Khalid said despite the new services being offered, sales had been at an all-time low.
“I think people are under the impression that school will not open so they think they don’t have to purchase school items at all. That is not the case. They will have online so they need their textbooks,” Khalid said.
He also noted that the slump in the economy, as well as joblessness exacerbated by COVID-19, had reduced purchasing power. He said even though times were tough, his bookstore had continued doing charitable book drives to provide school books to the less fortunate. He said the store had partnered with several charities and were lending as much assistance as possible.
Meanwhile, at Nigel Khan Bookstores in Gulf, some shoppers were seen doing last-minute shopping.
Rishi Sundar who was shopping for his daughter’s school books said because of COVID-19, he received the booklist late.
“I got one set of books last week and today I am trying to get the rest so they will be ready for the term,” he said.
He added, “I don’t know how the new term will playoff. In the initial lockdown, we get through for classes with the two kids.”
Another shopper Mohanie Mahabal said she was not sure what would happen in the new school term so she did not buy books beforehand.
“I don’t know how these online classes will work out. It did not work last time because it was difficult to supervising the two children and getting my own work done.”
Another bookstore owner Nigel Khan said there has been a constant flow of customers but he has also reduced crowds by offering curbside pickup.
“We have a constant flow of customers but we are seeing a limited number of people at our High Street branch. Our curbside pickup service is working great. Customers are saying there are shortages of books and supplies,” he said.
Nigel further added, “ With every announcement of new COVID cases, panic increases among our people and there is the fear of a lockdown.”
He said people seem more inclined to shop at malls where there are more space, easier parking and more sanitization.”