IANS & iNDICA NEWS BUREAU
The Retailers Association of India (RAI) has said that ad hoc lockdowns by state governments are impacting the businesses of already-stressed retailers, along with hurting the economic revival of the country.
As India grapples with surging COVID-19 cases, many Indian states are imposing lockdowns to curb the spread. West Bengal Monday became the latest state to announce a complete lockdown two days every week. Uttarakhand, similarly, has a weekend lockdown in place.
In a statement, the body of the organized retail industry said that the long road to recovery for the Indian retail industry continues to meet stumbling blocks with numerous restrictions being imposed at the state and local levels.
“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,” it said.
According to RAI, although the intentions are that of citizen safety and social distancing, the recent instances of local lockdowns and ad hoc restrictions being imposed in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are having a distressing impact on retail businesses.
Retailers are already facing huge setbacks in terms of payment of wages and rentals due to very low sales of about 40 percent as compared to last year, thanks to the extended lockdown, it said.
Contesting the restrictions on operating hours, Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India, said: “Restricted shopping time can lead to unnecessary overcrowding of stores, which is unfavorable 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.”
Arvind Mediratta, MD and CEO, METRO Cash & Carry India, said that these lockdowns would create severe inconvenience for all citizens as they also bar operations of food and grocery retail and wholesale stores.
Such hastily-implemented decisions by states undermine investor confidence and would come in the way of making the country “aatmanirbhar” or self-reliant, he said.
Voicing the concerns of retailers, the RAI has submitted representations to various state and local authorities that puts forth recommendations to get businesses and life of consumers on the track to recovery.
It has said that authorities should mandatorily allow essential shops including kiranas, general trade shops, supermarkets, hypermarkets and wholesalers to operate every day of the week until 9 p.m. to cater to the daily needs of the customers.
It has 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, it said.
The industry body has also asked the local authorities to open malls in all states. Malls can ensure a safe shopping experience wherein safety measures are taken by both, the mall authorities and the retailers, it said.
Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI, 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.”