Pakistan’s online portals help retailers push Eid stock during lockdown
As the government announced an ease in lockdown restrictions beginning May 9, all major retail outlets and markets rushed to open shops on the following Monday. This resulted in thousands of families and stag shoppers, mostly in Lahore and Karachi, dashing towards the markets for Eid shopping with total disregard towards adopting safety protocols, wearing masks, using sanitisers and most importantly maintaining social distance with others while being outside. Scenes of stacked shoppers in busy market streets were witnessed all across Lahore and Karachi creating a panic amongst local authorities who feared that such a blatant show of ignorance by the general public towards COVID-19 precautions can result in a rapid rise of COVID-19 infected cases in Pakistan.
Therefore, local district administrations sprung to action on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, and sealed all major markets in Lahore and Karachi due to public violation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the provincial government to stem the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country. After receiving reassurance from the traders that the SOPs will be followed, the district administration permitted the traders to reopen the shops. However, the past few days have witnessed a flurry of shoppers throwing caution to the wind and rushing to shop for the fast approaching Eid-ul-Fitr. Therefore, it is safe to assume that a strict lockdown may get imposed again if a careless shopping behaviour is observed again which is highly expected.
In this situation, many small retailers have realised that attracting the physical footfall of middle-income shoppers to their shops remains an inconsistent and unpredictable phenomenon. While on the other hand, there is a risk-conscious segment of responsible shoppers with potential buying power who have significantly contributed towards the recent rise of online shopping in Pakistan. Therefore, a large number of small retailers are ramping up their online presence, particularly on the Country’s major online classifieds platform such as OLX to publish free ads of their available product stock and sell them to a potentially vibrant community of eager online shoppers looking for a good deal in the safety of their homes.
“OLX is protecting the livelihood of thousands of small scale retailers across Pakistan amidst this unpredictable lockdown situation. We are providing one of its kind platform where we enable businesses to connect directly with their customers by posting free ads. To bring ease to our users we have also extended the time limit of ads along with the option of posting additional free ads so these small scale retailers have all the tools to find online customers to push their product stock during this difficult times” said Farhan Khan, Country Head of Sales at OLX Pakistan.
As recently observed by OLX, classified ads posted in the business to consumer category in Pakistan specifically related to garments including printed textile lawn for women, clothes, kids garments, and accessories witnessed a 100% increase. While ad postings related to footwear and electronic items saw a 50% increase compared to the previous month.
Mehmood Ali, a shop owner hailing from the Samanabad area in Lahore mentioned that the physical footfall of customers at his shop is limited and uncertain. However, he still managed to sell his entire stock of children’s garments through OLX and now he is looking forward to receiving the next stock of garments for Eid season to meet the growing demand of his online customers.
Retailers are also using other social media platforms to attract new customers. Due to the uncertain opening hours of shops and limited customer prospects, they developed an inventory at homes and connected with their regular customers through WhatsApp to share photo collages of readymade or semi-stitched suits for women. They offer various deals of discount to customers, that is, the more you buy the more you save, which not only appeals to existing customers but also makes their content go viral amongst new Whatsapp groups.
Similarly, may small retailers especially women entrepreneurs are hosting live video sessions on various Facebook pages marketing products such as stitched clothes, children’s toys, women’s hair, beauty, and makeup products to online audiences and securing runtime orders during the online session. In short, more and more small scale retailers are using online classified platforms such as OLX and social media platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp to generate hundreds of sales inquiries from online shoppers and sustain their businesses during these most difficult economic times.