The shops on Pondy Bazaar pedestrian plaza have been open for nearly two weeks but business has not picked up.
With little pedestrian presence, the cars and two wheelers are parked on both sides of the road. Outside the shops the Chennai Corporation’s advisory is posted. Shops have displayed on their windows that the air conditioner will not function until further orders from the government.
The battery vehicles have begun operation. But Anand Kumar, one of the drivers, said till afternoon on Friday he had transported only three customers.
Shop assistants sport masks and do not permit customers to enter without masks. At the entrance of bigger textile shops an assistant is posted to check the temperature of customers and provide hand sanitiser to them.
At the entrance of Naidu Hall, a tub with disinfectant has been placed. Customers must dip their feet into the tub before entering the shop. People over 65 years of age may wait in the lobby while youngsters accompanying them can complete their purchase. The shop has only four assistants per section, according to a floor supervisor. Most of the assistants are from either their warehouse nearby or those whose residences are close to the shop.
Theayagaraya Road has several mini shopping malls. None of them have been opened though the mall owners and shopkeepers have been appealing for relief. “These shops are very small and cannot maintain physical distance,” said a shop owner, who has been running a shop for over 50 years.
The Pondy Bazaar Merchants’ Association has subsidised the infrared thermometers for traders. “Around 75 shops have benefited,” said Bharat Shah, secretary.
No precautions are in place in the Corporation shopping complex, however, which has more shops than all of Pondy Bazaar. The shops have opened but visitors are few.
Traders say they have lost 30% of their revenue during the lockdown. “It started in January and we believed it was a temporary phase as the exams were round the corner. But then the lockdown came and it is a total washout,” said D. Hariharan, who runs Ajanta Textiles. “Unless public transport is available people will not be able to come,” he pointed out.
According to Mr. Shah for another six months the situation will not improve. “People are afraid to step out. The festival season will not be the same,” he said.