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Omicron fear: Lower footfall and sales have hit high street stores, malls

By Sharleen D'Souza
January 28, 2022 14:47 IST
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Fewer trips to malls mean lower footfall and sales, resulting in higher piling of stock - and possibly higher discounts.

Offline retailers are feeling the Omicron January chill as consumers are apprehensive about venturing out in the midst of rising Covid cases across the country.

Covid restrictions, as well as concerns over the new virus variant, are seeing shoppers pull back from the high streets and shopping malls, clearly cautious about streaming into stores and choosing to self-censor instead.

Offline retailers' hopes of a bumper End-Of-Season Sale (EOSS) and Republic Day (R-Day) Sale to compensate for losses over the pandemic have been dashed.

 

Fewer trips to malls mean lower footfall and sales, resulting in higher piling of stock - and possibly higher discounts.

Electronics retail chain Vijay Sales said its R-Day Sale will happen in Mumbai since there is no lockdown in Maximum City.

“We will stretch it over three-four days,” said Nilesh Gupta, managing director (MD), Vijay Sales.

Also, discounts this year will be somewhat higher, compared to the previous year.

It plans to offer discounts in the range of 15 per cent and 20 per cent, compared to the 12-14 per cent it offered at its earlier R-Day sales.

With Covid response curbs in place, offline retailers have also had to redraw their operational dynamics, according to state-specific restrictions.

“Our footfalls are impacted 20-25 per cent and the sales season could be subdued this year,” said Mukesh Kumar, chief executive officer (CEO), Infiniti Mall.

Even the food and beverage sales at its malls have been impacted due to restrictions, forcing them to pull down shutters at 10 pm in a city that supposedly never sleeps like New York, but rendered somnolent after Covid-19.

He added that brands don’t seem too bullish on the sales season this year and have slimmed their advertising wallet.

Kumar said brands could probably take a more decisive call before the weekend.

Fashion brands are already in the middle of EOSS, which will also coincide with the R-Day Sale, but footfall has been impacted due to customers staying indoors and shopping online.

Fashion retail chain Lifestyle said its EOSS is up and running.

It is only advertising in states where there are fewer restrictions.

“We are running our EOSS across stores at discounts we normally offer (up to 50 per cent), but we don’t expect the response to be like last year's,” said Devarajan Iyer, CEO, Lifestyle.

He added that footfall has been impacted due to higher cases of Covid and consumer awareness about safety.

If there are any more lockdowns, the response to its sales will be muted, he said.

Major Brands India, which has labels like Charles & Keith, Aldo, and Bath & Body Works under its belt, is also running its EOSS, but has seen reduced footfall at its stores.

“Footfall at our stores has been low, but we are running the regular EOSS with up to 50 per cent discount,” said Tushar Ved, president, Major Brands India.

He said its brands have witnessed higher traction online.

Fashion retailers have not been able to liquidate stock during the ongoing EOSS and the sale period could extend to mid-February, said a retailer.

Health & Glow, a beauty and personal care multi-brand retail chain will offer up to 50 per cent discount across brands and categories on its website, as well as in-store.

“As a natural outcome of the pandemic, given the lockdowns and curfews, offline has taken a hit and footfall will likely be lower during this period.

"However, the consumer will turn to shopping online, and so Health & Glow will continue to be a part of key holiday retail events,” said K Venkataramani, MD and CEO, Health & Glow.

Venkataramani added that over the past three-four years, it has taken to digital advertising in a big way, and traditional media has taken a backseat.

“In line with our plans to grow our omnichannel sales, our online advertising spend has quadrupled over the past year and will likely continue to increase for online channels,” he said.

Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

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Sharleen D'Souza in Mumbai
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