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With the second wave of covid-19 continuing to wreck havoc in India, retailers, restaurant owners and mall developers said they are staring at reduction in business, and muted consumer sentiment could further delay a recovery.

The restrictions imposed across India have already led to temporary closure of retail outlets selling non-essentials, and the spike in covid cases is expected to keep consumers indoors for a longer period, denting demand further.

Spending has also taken a backseat, said retailers. “Citizens are generally more concerned about their near and dear ones, and the immediate priority is health and safety of family and friends. So, shopping has taken a back seat. This scenario is likely to continue till we see things settling down in some time from now," said Sundeep Chugh, managing director and CEO, Benetton India.

Unlike last time when consumers took to buy products online, e-commerce is also seeing an impact this time. “It’s about consumer sentiment, which is down overall," Chugh added.

Nearly 60% of retail stores, including outlets in markets, malls, franchises and shop-in- shops are open. Benetton is bracing for a covid-led impact in its June quarter earnings, with business picking up only in the third quarter of the calendar year, Chugh added.

Delhi is observing a weekend curfew and has forced malls to remain shut till April-end. Maharshtra has imposed strict curbs, allowing only essential services. Madhya Pradesh said Indore, Bhopal, and Ujjain will impose curfew till 26 April. Karnataka imposed a night curfew across cities. Across India, the mood is grim. Meanwhile, on Sunday, traders’ association CAIT appealed for an immediate 15-day lockdown in Delhi.

“Business has been very badly impacted across India with weekend restrictions. Footfall has been hit 80% pan India, while sales are down 60%. There is no pent-up demand unlike last time," said the CEO of a fashion apparel retailer, seeking anonymity.

Malls across India had recovered close to 90% percent of pre-covid business between November and March. Footfalls have now dropped by 75% due to local curbs, said Shopping Centres Association of India—an industry body that represents malls across India.

“Consumers are bound to get into a savings mode as they grapple with uncertainty. Till the time the situation doesn’t improve, we’ll see a big impact on demand," said Nilesh Gupta, director of Vijay Sales.

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