The Retailers Association of India (RAI) on Monday said there is a need for a uniform approach to reopen stores across India as the directives of Home Ministry are interpreted differently by states, thereby inconveniencing customers and retailers, while continuing to severely impact demand and sales. In a statement, RAI said the problem has been compounded by the change in definition of stores; large standalone stores are considered malls in Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Assam.
“Furthermore, states like Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have prohibited stores from operating air-conditioners inside stores,” it added.
According to a PTI report: There needs to be uniform standard operating procedures (SOPs) for any part of the reopening process — permission to open stores, time restrictions on store operations, movement of staff and delivery vehicles, product pricing restrictions, the number of staff and customers allowed in a store or odd/even store restrictions, it added.
Commenting on the gravity of the situation, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI said, “The retail industry employs about 46 million people, and it is important to keep it functioning smoothly, as before.
“Business is floundering, millions of jobs are at stake and we need a policy framework that allows for non-discriminatory reopening of retail and time-bound resolution of fiscal and legal matters,” he was further quoted by PTI as saying.
The retailers’ body further said that allowing longer store hours could help in making people have a wider window of time for shopping, and thus help avoid crowding.
“The SOPs could also include guidelines for air-conditioning or for maintaining the temperatures within stores at levels that ensure the comfort of the staff and the customers while also maintaining freshness and hygiene of products,” it added.
Rajgopalan said RAI has been in touch with various government bodies since the beginning of the lockdown for safe opening up of retail.
“(We) are happy that the government concurs with our view that malls are a controlled and safe environment to shop.
“Following a uniform approach to reopening will help states implement the directive of the Ministry of Home Affairs in an orderly manner. More importantly, it will benefit customers and catalyse the rapid reopening of the retail sector,” he added.