Within a period of five months, COVID-19 has taken the shape of a monstrous anaconda, gripping and swallowing the world and bringing it to a grinding halt. Despite stringent lockdowns, countries have suffered a heavy blow in losing human lives and complete disruption of the world economy. At the time of writing this report, India recorded 1,20,535 cases out of which 49,872 have recovered and 3,605 have died. Such is the impact of deadly Coronavirus. Deepa, a Quality Control Executive, shares how retailers have been affected, and the call to actions recommended to move forward.
India: Economic Impact
The retail sector has been hit the worst as business has come to a standstill due to several phases of lockdowns. Small retailers and C-class outlets are facing the worst heat as they earn on day-to-day business. Since most of these outlets pay rent and salaries to their staff, the question arises: how will they pay when there is no business and income at all? If these retailers want to stay afloat, they will have to infuse capital in their business. Where will they manage the capital when they do business on hand-to-mouth basis? With these challenges, many of the retail outlets will be forced to shut down or sell the shops.
To add salt to their wounds, Mr. Kapil Pathere, Director VIP Clothing Ltd. in his article to Indian Retailer Magazine has said that the retail industry would take at least six months post- pandemic to revive from the impact, resulting in many retailers perishing due to lack of capital.
The standalone grocery stores located in various nooks and corners in each area will suffer as buyers will purchase only what is needed. In the light of the present situation, impulse purchase continues to decrease as consumers stay focused on their savings based on need versus want. Many stores will be left with little or no business.
Currently, the Indian retail industry has more than 15 million retailers employing more than 50 million, directly generating 20 lakh crore which is 10% of total GDP. The government needs to provide top priority to ensure that the retail industry stays afloat: to boost economy and sustain employment.
Another major factor contributing to the hardships of retailers is the non-existent “Supply Chain.” Coronavirus has completely dislodged the system; only essential items are being supplied and, even that, sporadically. Non-essential items have disappeared from the retail shelves causing immense problems to both retailer and consumer.
Retail Revival: Opportunities
To help revive the retail industry the retailers have approached the government with the following suggestions:
- When Delhi government announced opening of shops on odd and even days, the retail industry welcomed the decision with open arms.
- A group of top retailers and distributors of electronics and appliance in Delhi had written earlier to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, seeking his intervention to support them in: (1) conducting business by providing clarity on standalone and colony shops, and (2) allowing warehouse opening and delivery of goods by rickshaw, auto rickshaw, and tempo’s.
- As summer season has set in, these retailers also appealed for an ‘Odd-Even’-like formula to open shops of urgent seasonal products; this will hopefully minimize their turnover loss and will contribute to the sales turnover of at least Rs 2,000 crore within next 50 days from the sales of Air Conditioners & Refrigerators
If India wants to bring back the derailed economy, all shops — including shopping malls – should be allowed to open under stringently followed guidelines issued by WHO such as social distancing, wearing proper safety gears, masks and proper sanitization.
The government should deploy responsibility to the business owners, ensuring that all COVID-related guidelines are strictly met.
If there is any lack in administrating the guidelines, the owners should be reprimanded with huge fines or even cancellation of licenses. Moreover, if one case of COVID-19 is found, the owner should be held responsible and imprisoned in addition to fined. Employing the “Stick” method is the only option left to the government to help save and grow businesses.
Post-pandemic: Shifting in Consumer Behavior
In order to counteract the impact of the pandemic, the consumer trend is shifting towards online purchasing. Now is the ideal time for the retailers to start e-commerce business and grab the opportunity to increase their turnover.
All standalone shops should seriously consider prompt home deliveries in their areas. Most of the malls have websites, therefore they should list their products so that the customers can place orders for home deliveries.
To ensure the road to recovery for the retail industry, it is important that the government should open up the supply chain for all type of goods and services, else the retail sector will starve with no or little business.
Upon observing the Coronavirus pattern, it seems that it has come here to stay for another a year or so, or until the time a vaccine is developed. Until then, we have to learn to evolve our lifestyles: as business owners and consumers.
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