Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, fashion businesses are searching for ways to continue to carry out regular business. With central and state governments expected to impose strict regulations on non-essential retail when allowing them to reopen to limit the spread of the virus, stores will have to comply with regulations and might even come up with additional voluntary initiatives. In a webinar organised by Retailers Association of India, Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India shares his company’s approach while reopening temporarily closed stores…
India is in phase 3 of its lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the novel coronavirus has had a terrible humanitarian impact, it has exacted an appalling toll from economies all over the world. One of the worst hit sectors of the economy is Retail. Apparel and accessories are set to be the hardest hit retail sectors with the global apparel market forecast to decline 15.2 percent this year (equivalent to $297bn), says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, although the recovery has already started across markets released from lockdown and social-distancing measures.
With India hopeful of the lockdown restrictions easing on May 17, many retailers are starting to prepare for what happens after once they are allowed to reopen their premises. Most hope to quickly bounce back to their pre-COVID 19 business and some are even expecting a boost because of pent-up demand from many customers being stuck in their homes for weeks while stores were closed, though it is probably too optimistic to expect that things will go back to normal anytime soon.
Amid lockdown, fashion businesses are searching for ways to continue to carry out regular business.
With states easing stay-at-home restrictions, several fashion retailers are implementing reopening strategies. However, all retailers are expecting central and state governments to impose strict regulations on stores when allowing them to reopen to limit the spread of COVID-19 and are prepping themselves to comply with these regulations. In fact, many, like Bata India are even coming up with additional voluntary initiatives of their own.
Recently, Bata India reopened 300+ stores in green zones in the country. In a webinar organised by Retailers Association of India, Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India spoke about the company’s approach while opening these temporarily closed stores saying that the company’s priority is to conserve money by reducing the cash burn rate and sustaining the business throughout.
The other main concern is the support the safety of its employees and consumers.
Another area that will be targeted is to build better and stronger consumer relationships. According to Kataria, the company is working on its direct home delivery channel. “We have never done this in the history of its footwear business, but anything that makes it easier to keep shoppers re-assured will be stressed upon,” he said.
As of now, the footwear retailer is even taking WhatsApp orders in an effort to be as accessible to consumers as possible.
“Consumption through online channel will increase as consumers will hesitate to go out. They will stay at home and will do all their necessary shopping online. In the short term, online is bound to grow while, in the long term, growth will depend on the services delivered by a retailer and consequently, the brick-and-mortar stores will have to reinvent themselves,” Kataria explained.
While reviving the business in the coming months, the company will attempt to increase its productivity. In the initial 6 months, they anticipate to move ahead with 50 to 60 percent turnover and in the later months, they aim to achieve at least 90 percent of the turnover.
“The businesses at the stores will help us to decide which stores to retain for further business. As consumers will learn to live with less, we as corporates all also need to learn to live with less,” Kataria said, while explaining that he is of the firm belief that there will be a revival in consumer sentiment around Diwali when the shopping season in India begins.
The company is working hard towards finding the right solutions for its consumers and wants to leverage on this opportunity. “If you have earned the trust of your consumers, then this is the time to reap its benefit and be rewarded. Consumers in turn will reward those businesses who have stood by them in difficult time. This is also an opportunity for brands to do better. When consumers will come out of this crisis, they will return to trusted brands,” concluded Kataria.