Two years of closure of schools may or may not have forced students to lengthen their uniforms but it has definitely triggered the need for new shoes.
The result is a mad rush for shoes — leather boots, buckled shoes and canvas. The stores are struggling to meet the rush.
The need for various sizes for different age groups has multiplied the problem. Several stores that The Telegraph visited on Thursday had limited stocks but not all the varieties.
A Khadim store in Bhowanipore in south Kolkata had run out of laced leather boots and black buckled shoes in sizes 5 to 8. Limited stock of white keds across sizes was available, said the manager. At a Bata store in Behala in the city's southwestern part, white keds were out of stock. The manager of the Sreeleathers store on Lindsay Street in the central business district said school shoes were available but not all the varieties.
WhatsApp groups of parents of school kids are buzzing with messages about “where to find the right pair of shoes”.
A 35-year-old woman, who lives in Southern Avenue, has two daughters — both students of a girls’ school in south Kolkata — in UKG and Class II.
She needed two pairs each of black buckled shoes and white keds with straps.
“I had to visit half-a-dozen stores over two days before I found the shoes,” she said.
Abhilash Viswanath, whose son is in Class III of a co-ed school on James Long Sarani in Behala, did not find black boots despite multiple visits to a store suggested by the school. “Finally, I ordered the shoes online,” he said.
Several stores said fresh stocks were coming but “at least another fortnight” would be needed before the situation normalised.
Dozens of cartons were stacked outside a Khadim store on Rashbehari Avenue in south-central Kolkata’s Ballygunge.
“All of these have school shoes inside. Forty cartons have just arrived,” said the manager of the store.
Several schools have allowed a leeway for students in the wake of the shortage.
“We have allowed coloured sneakers for students who are yet to buy school shoes. They are expected to get proper shoes by the Bengali New Year,” said Amita Prasad, the director of Indus Valley World School.
Footwear companies said they had anticipated the surge in demand and acted accordingly.
A senior official of Sreeleathers said: “The demand is several times what it used to be during the start of a new session before the pandemic. But we had increased production to meet the demand.”
“We are witnessing a sustained growth in footfall across our retail stores and an increased demand for school shoes. We are fully prepared to meet this demand,” said a spokesperson of Bata India.
“Our supply chain team ensured school shoe stocks were made available to our retailers and distributors,” said a senior official of Khadim.