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Unlock 1.0: Retailers see tepid demand as dos and don'ts play spoilsport

Ajita Shashidhar     June 2, 2020

High street stores are open in most states. However, it's far from business as usual. While retail brands in Bangalore did experience 30-40 per cent walk-ins, in the rest of the country the response has been tepid. Even more frustrating for retailers is the fact that they have to adhere to different rules in different states and in some cases the rules vary at a district level. "In Bihar, for instance, in some districts, I am allowed to open my store between 11 am and 3 pm, elsewhere it is between 10 am and 2 pm and in certain districts, shops can stay open longer, between 10 am and 5 pm. It has been a complete nightmare," says Siddharth Bindra, MD of fashion retail brand, BIBA India. He says that his stores did see walk-ins during Eid, but the demand has dried up post the festival. "The financial environment hasn't been great for people to come out and shop," Bindra explains.

As if dealing with varied set of rules and regulations was not enough, stores in Tamil Nadu are not allowed to use air-conditioners. "Bangalore is the only city where our stores are functioning consistently. We have opened up 35 points of sale, but only six-seven stores are open consistently," points out Kavi Mishra, CEO of House of Anita Dongre.

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The governments of Maharashtra and Delhi, for instance, have allowed shops to be open on odd and even days. While the Maharashtra government has said that if the shops on the right side of a road are open on a particular day, the shops on the left would be closed and vice-versa. The Delhi government, however, has ordered every alternate store in a shopping district to be open. "This has made life confusing as there is no way the consumers will get to know the shop number," complains Mishra of House of Anita Dongre.

Also, as per MHA guidelines, shops need to ensure a minimum of six feet distance among customers and cannot allow more than five customers coming in at one time. However, different shops have different floor areas and larger shops can accommodate different capacities of shoppers while still ensuring strict social distancing. The Retailer's Association of India has appealed to the government for uniform and non-discriminatory opening of retail across all states. "A condition like this is counterproductive to the Centre's efforts to catalyse a retail resurgence and should be reviewed allowing for the number of people based on the area of each store as per guidelines laid down by the government. We also hope that the state guidelines will be implemented uniformly in all districts and are interpreted in the same manner by all enforcing authorities," the RAI statement said.

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