The Indian retail industry had faced many hurdles last year due to the pandemic-led lockdowns and localized restrictions. As the number of COVID-19 cases surge and the pandemic takes a new turn with the second wave in the country, the retail industry is beginning to see similar issues repeating in some form that were faced last year with varied localized restrictions across states.
Retailers Association of India (RAI) believes that there is a need for a coordinated effort at handling the second wave of the pandemic rather than creating diverse restrictions at the local levels like the local weekend lockdowns, shutdown at 8:00 pm, arbitrary testing inside malls, among others.
Speaking about the concerns faced by the retail industry, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI), said, “RAI has been highlighting the fact that formal retail spaces, especially shopping centres are controlled spaces and have SOPs in place. They have got the ability to adhere to hygiene standards and can definitely ensure social distancing, as compared to local markets. The government could also consider these places to be used to vaccinate citizens and speed up the inoculation drive. However, as soon as pandemic seems to surge, a new wave of restrictions seem to apply on these places first, which beats the logic in our mind. These extemporized restrictions are creating setbacks for retailers as the already stressed retail businesses are getting further interrupted and in turn dampening consumer sentiment.”
India will always be a consumption Economy, and strain on the retail industry cripples the entire value chain, which involves manufacturing, entertainment, right down to artisans and other micro-enterprises, leading to layoffs and downscaling or even shutting down operations widely.
Removing roadblocks at the local level will not only help retailers to plan ahead, but will also help them make decisions on hiring. It will also help the exchequer in the form of taxes collected by the State Governments like GST, among others which is important to help revive the economy. Most importantly, it will be in the interest of consumers as it will bring convenience to them.
It was learnt that localized decision-making can be political in nature and create a serious impact on the industry. Many of the states and sometimes municipalities continue to take ad-hoc decisions at a local level, which has a distressing impact on the already strained retail businesses. Last year subsequently, there was a general set of guidelines that were been used by all the states.
Recovery will need unconventional solutions and government support. At this juncture, all efforts are required to boost the local economy and help revive retail, saving millions of jobs. Retailers Association of India (RAI) has appealed to the Ministry of Health & Welfare to prioritise COVID-19 vaccination for frontline retail workers.