COVID-19 Impact: In 4th week since lockdown, consumers report improvement in essentials availability via ecommerce platforms and retail stores


  • • 58% of those who ordered essentials via ecommerce platforms found them
  • • 67% of those who ordered essentials via local retail stores got them
  • • Availability level of essential goods via ecommerce platforms and local retail stores converging
  • • Consumers want items like books, laptops, tablets, printers, air conditioners, coolers, fans etc. to be added to the essential category

21st April 2020, New Delhi: During the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequently the extended lockdown, LocalCircles in association with the Department of Consumer Affairs has been regularly tracking the availability of essential goods in local retail stores, as well as on ecommerce platforms.

The essential goods survey for April 13-14 had indicated that 43% of those who ordered essential goods via an ecommerce app could not get them and 36% of those who went to local retail stores could not get most of the essential goods they wanted. To continue tracking the situation, LocalCircles conducted the 9th consumer survey between April 19-20, which received 17,000+ responses from consumers located in more than 180 districts of India.

Availability of Essential Goods via eCommerce app during COVID-19 Outbreak: 58% consumers were able to find most essential goods via eCommerce apps in the last 48 hours

Availability of Essential Goods via eCommerce app during COVID-19 Outbreak: 58% consumers were able to find most essential goods via eCommerce apps in the last 48 hours

The first question asked consumers when they placed an order for essential goods (wheat, rice, pulses, salt, sugar, etc) from an eCommerce app during the last 48 hours, how was their experience. 48% said they were able to get most items while 13% said they were able to get only some items as online stores were stocked out for others. 17% said they were not able to get most items while 12% said they were not able to get anything. 10% said they were able to get everything easily.

On the ecommerce platform front, the availability of essential goods has shown some improvement in the past few days. On April 13-14, 57% of the consumers were reportedly able to find majority of the essential goods via ecommerce apps. This number has improved to 58% as on 19-20 April. Prior to the Junta Curfew on March 22nd, the number stood at 65%.

Percentage of Consumers able to find essential goods via eCommerce apps increases from 57% to 58%

Percentage of Consumers able to find essential goods via eCommerce apps increases from 57% to 58%

The reverse plotting also shows that the ‘unavailability’ situation of essential products via ecommerce apps is showing slow improvement but 42% consumers still could not find their essentials via ecommerce apps in the last 2 days.

Percentage of Consumers unable to find essential goods via eCommerce apps reduces from 43% to 42%

Percentage of Consumers unable to find essential goods via eCommerce apps reduces from 43% to 42%

Ecommerce platforms are stepping up their efforts to provide services and many other smaller app/web based portals have also started providing essentials via electronic orders. These companies have hired thousands of temporary workers for their warehouse, field operations and customer service. The new MHA guidelines announced on 15/04 and the subsequent guidelines announced by states have provided more clarity in terms of movement of goods vehicles, workers, delivery agents etc., and availability of passes to all the required stakeholders on a priority so that the movement is smooth, subjected to strict adherence to social distancing.

In the early days of the lockdown, there were reports that e-commerce companies and their delivery personnel were often restrained from moving around, which hampered services and delivery of essentials to customers. That issue seems to now have been largely rectified.

Consumers were also asked when they tried to purchase essential goods (wheat, rice, pulses, salt, sugar, etc) from a local retail store during the last 48 hours, what was their experience like. 25% said they were able to get everything easily while 42% said they were able to get most items except a few. 22% said they were able to get only some items as stores were stocked out for others and 10% said they were not able to get most of the items. Just 1% said they were not able to get anything.

Availability of Essential Goods in Retail Stores during COVID-19 Outbreak: 67% consumers were able to find most essential goods in their local retail stores in the last 48 hours

Availability of Essential Goods in Retail Stores during COVID-19 Outbreak: 67% consumers were able to find most essential goods in their local retail stores in the last 48 hours

On the local retail stores front, the availability of essential goods has marginally improved in the last 2 days. On April 13-14, 64% of the consumers were reportedly able to find essential goods at local retail stores. This number stands at 67% as on 19-20 April. Prior to the Junta Curfew, the number stood at 83%.

Percentage of Consumers able to find essential goods at local retail stores increases from 64% to 67%

Percentage of Consumers able to find essential goods at local retail stores increases from 64% to 67%

The reverse plotting of retail stores shows more or less a similar situation like last two pulse checks, and the ‘unavailability’ situation of essential products is almost stagnant. The percentage has reduced from 36% to 33% in the last few days.

Percentage of Consumers unable to find essential goods at local retail stores increases from 36% to 33%

Percentage of Consumers unable to find essential goods at local retail stores increases from 36% to 33%

One of the new models that is fast emerging during this lockdown is the delivery of essentials by local stores. Orders are being taken on phone or whatsapp and the goods are being delivered within a few hours. Such purchases are classified as purchases via the local retail store in this survey.

Overall, it appears that the availability level of essential goods via ecommerce platforms and local retail stores has now started to converge. The gap had become quite high just after the junta curfew when the ecommerce platforms suffered major stockouts upon announcement of the lockdown and had logisitical challenges in getting curfew passes and retaining labour. Since then many have now partnered with other delivery service providers as well as hired more staff on ground. On April 19-20, 67% consumers found most essential goods via local retail stores, while 58% of the consumers who visited the ecommerce platforms for essentials found most of the items.

Consumers have also requested some other items to be added to the essential category list of the Government, as there is an increasing need for them. With most schools starting online classes and most parents working extended ours from their homes, sharing their laptop/computer/tablet for online classes becomes an issue for the parents. On top of that, online classes of schools also require children to do assignments creating demand for textbooks, printers, ink cartridges, paper, stationery etc. for their classes. Also, with the onset of summers, consumers have raised the need to purchase ACs, coolers and ceiling fans, which they are currently unable to procure due to the lockdown.

LocalCircles will be submitting the findings of this report to various stakeholders in the Central Government and State Governments requesting them to take actions based on the consumer feedback highlighted in this report.

About LocalCircles

LocalCircles, India’s leading Community Social Media platform enables citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions and enables Government to make policies that are citizen and small business centric. LocalCircles is also India’s # 1 pollster on issues of governance, public and consumer interest. More about LocalCircles can be found on https://www.localcircles.com

Akshay Gupta - media@localcircles.com, +91-8585909866

All content in this report is a copyright of LocalCircles. Any reproduction or redistribution of the graphics or the data therein requires the LocalCircles logo to be carried along with it. In case any violation is observed LocalCircles reserves the right to take legal action.

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