Early bird catches the worm: A one-day comparison of local & non-local shops performance in Ukhrul

Ukhrul: One might wonder when does Ukhrul wake up? The simple answer to that question is, the sleepy Ukhrul town wakes up after lunch. For the uninitiated, lunch in Ukhrul is anywhere between 9ish to 10ish am. To put it into context, 80% of the non-local shops shutters are up and open by 5:30 am to 6 am. Be it the hardware stores, dhabas, automobile spare part stores, general stores, clothing stores, or even the fishmongers.

We talked to the store manager of the biggest and the most well-renowned Hardware store Nitu Glass store in Viewland bazaar. The owner told, “We open the store at 5:30 am every day. Sometimes when we push up the shutter there would be a few customers waiting out front. In some cases, the customers would be the ones going around the backdoor waking us up. Today, within 10-20 minutes of our opening we have had around 5-6 customers”.

As you are reading this, since we have piqued your curiosity, yes, we did ask about the figures they made from these few customers and they said it was close to Rs 10,000. “Not the best morning,” he added.

Most of the early customers are people that plan to start early so that they can finish their shopping on time and return back to their villages.

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While Interacting with some of them, they said that it’d be great if they could shop from local stores instead. “We don’t want to spend and give our money to non-locals, we want to give it more to our own community owned shops, but what choice do we have. I am constructing a house back in the village and I have ordered these CGI sheets and all other items for the house. I still have to cover essential food items and other things so that I can finish the shopping and return back to the village on time and yes, sadly I will have to shop all of it from the non-locals,” said a customer.

90% of the local shops were all found shut, including Pharmacies, mind you. The remaining 10% are trickle of hotels, meat shops, a few vegetable vendors, and keeping true to factual count, 7 convenience stores, this particular day.

Luckily, these are some of the early birds that have had a stroke of good luck lately. They have discovered the silver lining in their harsh morning routine.

A small convenient store located right at the opposite of the Nitu Glass store is one such early bird. The owner said she had six customers since the opening at 5:30 am. Within 20 minutes of its opening, she fetched around Rs 2000. While we were at it, a customer walked in and bought disposable coffee cups, coffee powders, milk, tea leaves, etc. This kicked up her total early morning earnings to a whopping Rs 2600 in a span of few minute.

In a different location, opposite the TNL office, the owner of a small convenience store said she had an early customer who came in with an empty carton box which he packed with bakeries, essential foods, and groceries worth Rs 2300 from her store to take back to his village.

The shopkeeper says that she makes an average of Rs 5000-10,000 within the first two hours of the morning daily. “I realized it only a year ago when a group of customers came to my house one morning, saying that they needed to buy some stuff urgently to take it to a picnic. If I recall correctly, they spend around Rs 6000. So, obviously I gave it a try, the next day my shop shutters were up at 5 am and by 5:30. I was skeptical at first thinking yesterday was a just dumb luck but to my surprise, the next day I made around Rs 5000 and I haven’t looked back ever since. I also picked up from some shops, the popular demand of sugarcane juice. So I have installed a new sugar cane juicer machine a month ago and it easily gives me a return of Rs 1000 in the early morning. It attracts lots of people going out for morning walks.”

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Few local shops that were open early

Interacting with some of the vegetable vendors nearby, most of the vendors said that they make around Rs 2000-3000 per day. When they miss out on opening in the early morning they make just around Rs 1200.

There are many success stories of opening early and these are just some of them recorded for just one day.

The majority of the local shopkeepers are still of the opinion that there is nothing great about opening in the early morning. The trend even got worse evidently after the pandemic lockdowns, when schools, colleges and offices were shut, coupled with pre-lockdown when schools and colleges started at 8 am.

Given the lockdown at it’s tail, as of now, schools, colleges and offices have reopened but the shopkeepers haven’t been able to return to the earlier pre-lockdown routine yet – Shops opening by 7:30 am.

The takeaway, in a nutshell, is that the early bird catches the worm.

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