Retail sales in January 2022 suffered due to the restrictions imposed by states in an attempt to curb the third wave of the pandemic. Sales in January 2022 were at 91 percent of the pre-pandemic sales levels (January 2019) as well as in January 2020.
The 24th edition of the Retail Business Survey by the Retailers Association of India (RAI) indicates that while some of the states allowed for retail to function with fewer limitations responding to the decline in the number of hospitalisations, others like Delhi and Haryana continued with heavy restrictions. Nevertheless, the restrictions culminated into negative sales sending categories like beauty, wellness & personal care (-24 percent), furniture & furnishings (-12 percent), apparel & clothing (-7 percent) and footwear (-4 percent) back into the red as compared to pre-pandemic levels (January 2019), despite it being marriage season.
Other categories that were on a steady growth trajectory such as CDIT too experienced a dip in sales growth rate.
Commenting on local level ad hoc restrictions that have been impacting retail businesses, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI), said, “Responding to the steady decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisation rates across the country, most of the states across the country have allowed retail businesses to be open till late hours so that there is no crowding at any point in time. The only real worry is Delhi and Haryana that are still not allowing stores to be open till late, and this is creating a big impact on businesses while not helping solve the crowding issue. The restrictions continue to remain in place despite assurances from authorities about lifting the same. We do hope that Delhi and Haryana take a leaf from states like Maharashtra and allow all formats of retail to be open till late and be in consonance with practices across the country to accelerate the return to normalcy.”
Retail businesses across regions have indicated a drop with sales in South India at 98 percent of the pre-pandemic levels (January 2019), North India at 92 percent, West India at 89 percent and East India at 87 percent of the pre-pandemic levels (January 2019).
The pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods. Having learned from prior experience of handling the earlier waves, the state government of Maharashtra came up with a very different way of handling the situation. They kept a full handle on the number of hospitalisations and as much as possible made sure that businesses were able to continue as usual. Now, Maharashtra has gone ahead and lifted most of the restrictions allowing stores and retail establishments to remain open for longer hours realising that shorter hours create crowds. This aids business recovery while restoring a feeling of normalcy.