Alcohol and junk were the most sold
Going by what grocers in the capital sold during the 21-day lockdown, it was junk food rather than essentials that many residents of the capital city were after.
Grocers said many ordered packaged snacks and carbonated drinks as they started delivering goods at the doorsteps. Alcohol was one of the top items, said a grocer who even suggested including alcohol in the essential list.
One of the earliest grocer to open shop during the lockdown, 8 Eleven, nearly sold out all its snacks and instant noodles. The manager said the demand for junk was so huge that they couldn’t even replenish the shelves even after they received their consignments. “Yes, people have started eating more junk foods during lockdown. I think the more you buy and stockpile, the more you eat,” she said.
The owner of T.G Tshongkhang, Tek Bdr. Ghalley said that he couldn’t sell much of the essential items as he opened his shop on the 12th day of lockdown. “Most of the customers were looking for alcohol. Since we didn’t sell alcohol, we sold biscuits, instant noodles, butter, tetra pack milk and fizzy drinks,” he said.
Breakfast cereals such as oatmeal and cornflakes were slow selling items at Gongphel general shop, which sold out all its goods during lockdown. The owner, Phub Gyeltshen said, “May be people have no choice because of the limited shops opened in their zone, they had to buy. Maybe they are stressed out or bored being locked in and started consuming snacks.”
Phub Gyeltshen claimed that most of the customers were looking for fresh vegetables as much as they were buying junk foods. Since imported snacks ran out of stock, people also started buying Bhutanese homemade snacks.
Nana general shop also saw an overwhelming demand for alcoholic beverages during lockdown. Dawa Tamang, the owner, said they had to restock alcohol every two to three days.
The lockdown has also, many said, increased consumerism making a lot of people spend more than what they usually do. “I discourage my children from buying junk food like chips and carbonated drinks. During the lockdown, I didn’t realise I was stocking them up,” said a corporate employee. He said he spent more than Nu 17,000 on junk and beer. “My wife who usually is against my drinking habit let me stock beer!”
A panshop owner, Tshering claimed that she spent more than Nu 15,000 during lockdown on snacks like noodles, chips and fizzy drinks. “I was shocked when I calculated my spending. I never spent this much on junk foods on normal days.”
There is a general agreement that many spent more on food items, both essential and non-essentials, during the lockdown. “The home delivery facility and staying indoors for weeks made people buy and buy,” said another.
This is also evident from the brisk business many did. A grocery in Changzamtog sold goods worth more than Nu200,000 in three hours on the morning of the lockdown, August 11. Daily average sales of Nana Tshongkhang during the lockdown was about Nu 45,000.