Total lockdowns in some places and limited operational hours and days in several others are creating setbacks for retailers as the already stressed retail businesses are getting further interrupted and in turn dampening consumer sentiment, RAI said in a statement.
Citing instances of “local lockdowns and ad-hoc restrictions being imposed in UP, Maharashtra, AP and Karnataka”, the retailers body said such developments are “making a distressing impact on retail businesses” as retailers are already facing huge setbacks in terms of payment of wages and rentals due to very low sales of about 40 per cent as compared to last year due to the extended lockdown.
RAI said the restrictions imposed by several state governments are compounding the situation and posing significant operational issues as restricted hours of operations, stoppage of staff and goods vehicle have resulted in hindered supply chains and skewed buying patterns.
“Shops being allowed to open for shorter number of hours leads to crowding because demand is inelastic. This is detrimental to social distancing. It is also creating a havoc on the supply side affecting availability of goods,” it added.
RAI said it has submitted representations to various state and local authorities putting forth recommendations to get businesses and life of consumers on the track to recovery, including “mandatorily allowing essential shops including kiranas, general trade shops, supermarkets, hypermarkets and wholesalers to operate every day of the week until 9 pm to cater to the daily needs of the customers”.
It also sought ensuring uniform and regular opening of all categories of retail for full working hours while following stringent hygiene practices and adhering to social distancing norms.
“This will help avoid overcrowding outside stores as demand will get distributed over all days of the week,” the retailers’ body said.
RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan said the association has submitted representations to state and local authorities in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka seeking removal of timing restrictions that have been imposed in some regions derailing smooth operations.
Expressing similar views, Bata India CEO Sandeep Kataria said, “Restricted shopping time can lead to unnecessary overcrowding of stores, which is unfavourable towards the personal safety of both store staff and customers. Longer operational hours will support recovery for retailers as well as help adhering to social distancing norms.”
METRO Cash & Carry India MD and CEO Arvind Mediratta said the decision to close all stores on weekends in Uttar Pradesh and to reinforce a stringent lockdown in Bengaluru would severely impact business.
“These lockdowns will create severe inconvenience for all citizens as they also bar operations of food and grocery retail and wholesale stores,” he said, adding “such hastily implemented decisions by states undermine investor confidence and would come in the way of making the country ‘aatmanirbhar’.”
Similarly, Arvind Lifestyle Brands, CEO ‘Unlimited’ Himanshu Chakrawarti said, “Customer convenience and preventing of crowding are both served best by having regular retail timings. Odd even dates or few hours trading time inconveniences customers and also results in crowding.”
He asked local authorities to take a larger contextual view and issue notifications with more stable working days and timings to ensure customer safety and convenience.
Rajagopalan said the need of the hour is concerted efforts by all stakeholders.
“While retailers are doing their bit by following stringent hygiene practices, the policymakers too need to support to ensure economic revival across the country. Consumption is important for the country and supports the business environment,” he added.