A selected number of Aarong outlets are scheduled to reopen on Sunday (10 May), following the approval by the government for shops and markets to resume business after a shutdown lasting for one and a half months. The outlets will run business from 10am to 4pm, while ensuring additional safety measures, besides undertaking all possible preventive actions for both the customers and staff.
To reduce health risk and ensure social distancing Aarong has also, for the first time in Bangladesh, introduced an online booking system for customers who want to visit a shopping outlet. They can book their time slot at aarong.com and visit the outlet at their scheduled time for safe and comfortable shopping.
Tamara Hasan Abed, Managing Director, BRAC Enterprises, said in this regard, "Poverty alleviation and women's employment are aims of Aarong. Livelihoods of more than 65 thousand artisans and women entrepreneurs are involved with us. Considering their livelihoods we have taken this decision to reopen our outlets following the government approval and ensuring all possible health safety measures."
"Aarong is a collaborative effort of the people of Bangladesh. It is not a privately owned organisation. Aarong's profits are spent for the welfare of the disadvantaged people. Half of our profits is spent for Aarong's expansion and development and the other half is spent in implementing BRAC's development programmes. BRAC draws a portion of its budget from Aarong's profit to implement its development programmes including poverty alleviation," she further said.
Of its 21 outlets, two situated in Narayanganj city and Bashabo area of Dhaka city will remain closed as these two areas are considered as hotspots for COVID-19 spread. Besides these, Aarong outlets that are part of a shopping mall or market will also remain closed if the market authority or other relevant authorities take a decision not to reopen. As a part of the decisions, Aarong outlets at Jamuna Future Park, Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, Cumilla and Sylhet outlets will remain closed.
The Aarong authority made these announcements at a digital press conference on Saturday (9 May) organised on its dedicated facebook page. Customers may watch the press conference at Aarong facebook page. They said all possible measures have been taken in all these outlets to ensure an adequately safe environment for both its customers and staff. The staff has been especially trained on the safety measures against corona infection. They will be given masks and gloves to wear during their working hours. Aarong will also provide transport to pick and drop all its staff so that they do not need to use public transports. The premises of the outlets will be sanitised at regular intervals every day, which will help reduce health risk due to the virus.
Reiterating Aarong's highest priority to ensure a safe shopping environment for its customers and staff during this period, Mohammad Ashraful Alam, Chief Operating Officer of Aarong, said, "We are very much committed to strictly implement all the health and safety measures at each of these outlets, including the social distancing protocol. Staying in line with that we have introduced a time-schedule-based shopping system through online registration so that our respected customers are able to do their shopping in a safe and hassle-free environment. We are all in this together to navigate this difficult period."
As part of its prevention measure against COVID-19, Aarong will not allow trials of clothing and customers will not be able to exchange any product once they buy it until the situation normalises. Once the situation becomes normal, counting of 30 days will start as stipulated in Aarong's 'Product exchange policy' and customers will be able to exchange products.
Having described the online booking system, the speakers said, the number of customers to visit each outlet ensuring social distancing has been decided based on its area, space and number of staff. The customers will be provided with time slots through online booking. An hour of shopping time will be allotted for each booking. A customer will receive confirmation sms on their phone after successful booking of a timeslot. They will show the sms to the security staff before taking entry into the outlet.
Customers are requested to reach at least 10 minutes before their time slot begins and leave within the allotted time.
All customers must wear facemasks. Children below 10 years will not be allowed. Customers need to sanitize their hands and their body temperature will be measured using a thermal scanner before they get into the outlet. Anyone not wearing a facemask and/or showing body temperature above 98 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed entry.
Any walk-in customer will be able to gain entry provided there is adequate space for social distancing measures or any customer has cancelled their booking.
Customers and staff inside will strictly follow social distancing. Aarong encourages digital payment to reduce the risk of infection through cash handling.