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NEW DELHI : Retail outlets, restaurants, and malls are expected to gradually open in some cities after weeks of lockdowns with states such as Haryana, Maharashtra, and Delhi announcing that restrictions will be eased in phases.

Some retailers in Delhi opened stores on Monday after the state government initiated the odd-even rule for malls and markets.

Restaurants in Mumbai saw reservations trickling in as eateries in cities such as Mumbai and Pune were allowed to open for dine-in albeit at 50% capacity and till 4pm. On weekends, restaurants will be allowed to open only for takeaways and deliveries. Restaurants have also been allowed to serve liquor.

However, restaurant owners said that unlike last year they do not expect consumers to rush back to stores. The fear of a third wave of covid-19 infections and the presence of a more virulent Delta strain in India is likely to keep consumers indoors for long.

“This week we expect very low turnout, but most of us are opening because it is sending out a very positive message that we are open and ready to do business," said Pranav Rungta, chapter head, Mumbai, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). The industry body is engaging with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to vaccinate all frontline restaurant staff.

Rungta, who runs Café Royal in Colaba, Mumbai, said they have started getting reservations. However, he said 10-15% of eateries in the city are not likely to open.

Meanwhile, Haryana and Delhi on Sunday further eased restrictions for malls and markets. The Haryana government lifted some restrictions even as the lockdown in the state was extended. Curbs were relaxed for shops, liquor vends, malls, eateries, religious places, and corporate offices. Restaurants are now allowed to stay open from 10am to 8pm with 50% occupancy.

West Bengal, too, allowed restaurants with vaccinated staff to open for a few hours for dine-in.

Spykar Lifestyles has started operating but is maintaining caution with the possibility of a third wave, said Sanjay Vakharia, its chief executive. Unlike last year, recovery is expected to be gradual, he said, as timings and restrictions are staggered everywhere and people may not flock to buy their products. “There will be pent-up demand but its unlikely to be at last year’s levels," he said. Business in the June quarter is expected to be 20% of what it had set out to do.

The odd-even formula for opening stores in Delhi was inconvenient, the Confederation of All India Traders said on Monday and sought more staggered timings for all markets. The association said the city’s busy markets wore a deserted look as shopkeepers readied stores for opening. “I am assuming that in a week the 50% rule may be relaxed along with the restrictions on food outlets. Recovery will be slower this time as the impact of covid was much higher this year compared to last year. We may be able to get to 60% of pre-covid numbers by Diwali," said Abhishek Bansal, executive director, Pacific Group, which runs malls in Delhi.

Pushpa Bector, director, Shopping Centre Association of India (SCAI), and executive director, DLF Shopping Malls, said the industry was ready for reopening. Retailers are also pushing for vaccination of staff as markets open up. “We hope that business will soon come back to normal. June and July are usually the sale period and retailers also have a lot of stock. We do anticipate that the sales will start sooner than before to ensure that all the stock is bought," she said.

Malls and shopping centres lost an estimated 3,000 crore during April and May when lockdowns were in place in some states, according to estimates by SCAI.

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