There is no denying that this is the age of the mall. It is the favoured ‘hang out’ destination of college kids in our cities and the favoured shopping destination for the upwardly mobile youth. With their air conditioned comfort and the presence of a large number of retail chains and brands all in the same area, malls have changed the way Indian youth view leisure. With food courts with several varieties of food available and special play areas for kids, the mall experience is something that no one wants to lose out on.
Where does this leave the friendly neighbourhood stores in the locality? Has the mall phenomenon hit the small trader hard? Not necessarily. The mall is not where we go to get our vegetables and bread every day. While there may be possibilities of getting these things at malls, a large majority of us are still buying our everyday household items from the local stores. These are people who stock the smaller and more inexpensive of household items like soaps and shampoos, aata and dals, bread and eggs, etc.
In an increasingly consumer driven world, even the neighbourhood stores have adapted to the new way of life. Providing free home delivery to regular customers, taking orders on the phone, the local stores have become savvy enough to keep their customers. Even the vegetable vendors take orders over the phone and provide home delivery in several urban localities.
In India, we live as a dynamic mixture of cultures, sensibilities and generations. So, even as the younger generation increasingly depends on malls for their everyday items, the slightly older one still depends largely on neighbourhood stores. The balance that this creates allows both to become important parts of our everyday lives. Even open air markets were expected to vanish with the advent of the mall culture, but that has not happened. Enough of us need those to keep them alive as well.
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