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NEW DELHI : The Centre’s economic package to cushion the impact of the pandemic has done little to bail out the retail sector that employs millions, said retailers. More money should have been put in the hands of consumers to keep demand intact in an otherwise depressed economy, especially as job losses are imminent, said retailers of apparel, mobile phones, footwear and accessories.

Retailers, except those selling essential products, have seen their businesses suffer as a prolonged lockdown has led to countrywide store closures. The retail sector employs 40-50 million people directly, according to estimates by the Retailers Association of India (RAI).

These people have suffered as malls, markets and shops selling non-essentials have seen business slump because of the lockdown, but in the fourth phase, beginning 18 May, some businesses have been allowed to resume operations. However, retailers said they will wait for state government directives to open up.

“The simple answer is no, what they announced had nothing to do with our industry. For the stimulus to have any impact, it will take at least 1 to 2 years for all these policies to pave the way for any demand creation. Apart from reduction in EPF contribution and other small measures there has been no direct support to our industry," said Sanjay Vakharia, chief executive officer, Spykar Lifestyles, which sells apparel through 1,400 points of sale in India.

Moreover, malls, which host large retailers, continue to remain shut.

“We are very disappointed with the government. They have not taken our request into consideration at all. We were hoping that they will allow at least 50% area of the malls to reopen," said Amitabh Taneja, chairman, Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI).

It had sent a detailed SOP to the government, saying it was best to allow consumers to shop in a controlled environment, Taneja said. “However, no one in the government understood what we were presenting. We will now have to restrategize, calculate the losses that the industry will incur and then appeal again."

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