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Unlock 2.0: States urged to ease shopping hour curbs

By Arnab Dutta
July 21, 2020 12:00 IST
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The demands from retailers are fourfold:  One, allow kiranas, general trade stores, supermarkets, hypermarkets, and wholesalers to operate every day of the week till 9 pm.

Two, ensure uniform and regular opening of all categories of retail. Three, hassle-free movement of goods and employees, and four, lift bans on malls in states like Maharashtra.

With little signs of revival in their business, retailers have urged state and local authorities to ease localised lockdowns.

Ad-hoc lockdowns, they said, have been counterproductive since the country entered Unlock 2.0 on July 1.

 

Imposed by over a dozen states, ad-hoc shutdowns have not only quashed hopes of any recovery but could add to the rising Covid-19 count, they argued.

The Retailers Association of India (RAI), a not-for-profit organisation representing the rights of retailers, is making representations to state governments and local authorities, seeking permit for longer hours of operations.

The arbitrary lockdowns, imposed by different bodies in different areas spread across the country, have only compounded their woes, they rued.

In its first leg, the RAI has approached the authorities in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, apart from respective state secretariats.

“The need of the hour is concerted efforts by all stakeholders. While retailers are doing their bit by following stringent hygiene practices, policymakers, too, need to ensure economic revival.

"Only consumption can support the business environment,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, chief executive officer (CEO), RAI.

The demands from retailers are fourfold:  One, allow kiranas, general trade stores, supermarkets, hypermarkets, and wholesalers to operate every day of the week till 9 pm.

Two, ensure uniform and regular opening of all categories of retail.

“This will help avoid overcrowding outside stores since demand will get evenly distributed,” they said.

Three, hassle-free movement of goods and employees.

Four, lift bans on malls in states like Maharashtra.

Retailers have argued that arbitrary rules followed by agencies in different regions are causing more harm than good.

The ad-hoc restrictions that keep changing create confusion about what is allowed and what is not, they said.

Arvind Mediratta, MD and CEO, METRO Cash & Carry India, said: “The decision to close all stores on weekends in UP and to reinforce stringent lockdown in Bengaluru is going to severely impact business.

"We would request Karnataka and UP to allow unhindered operations of food and grocery retail and wholesale stores.

"Such hastily implemented decisions undermine investor confidence and would come in the way of making India self-reliant.”

Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India, said: “Restricted shopping time can lead to unnecessary overcrowding at stores.

"Longer operational hours will support recovery for retailers as well as help adhere to social distancing.”

Himanshu Chakrawarti, CEO, Unlimited from Arvind Lifestyle Brands, said: “Customer convenience and preventing crowding are served best by having regular retail timings.

"Odd-even dates or few hours’ trading time inconveniences buyers and  results in overcrowding.

"I request the local authorities to take a larger contextual view and issue notifications with more stable working days and timings to ensure customer safety and convenience.”

Photograph: PTI Photo

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Arnab Dutta in New Delhi
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