Retail chains reported that some of their staff couldn’t reach workplaces. The retailers may be staring at problems of stock availability if their centres are not fully functional. (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
Retail chains reported that some of their staff couldn’t reach workplaces. The retailers may be staring at problems of stock availability if their centres are not fully functional. (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

Long queues, low supply add to woes at short-staffed retailers

  • On day 1 of lockdown, business disrupted by transportation issues at warehouses, distribution centres
  • More Retail says it’s working with 50-60% staff strength and 80% of its stores in India are open

Shoppers continued to queue up for essential items outside large-format grocery stores and supermarkets on day one of India’s three-week lockdown on Wednesday, even as the shops were hit by staff shortage and disruption in supply of goods.

More Retail, which operates over 640 supermarkets and hypermarkets, said its stores are working at 50-60% of staff strength. The retailer, which sells fast-moving consumer goods as well as fresh produce, home goods and apparel, said roughly 80% of its stores in India opened on Wednesday. Chief executive officer Mohit Kampani said that while shoppers queued up, business was disrupted by skeletal staff and transportation issues at its warehouses and distribution centres.

“Our biggest problem is being unable to run the distribution centres because our staff is not being allowed to reach them, and secondly, whatever staff we are getting in these centres, their ability to load trucks and get them to stores is the biggest problem right now," he said.

DMart, which runs 206 stores selling packaged essential foods as well as household goods, said that on Wednesday fewer employees showed up across its outlets.

“Our staff attendance is down by 80-90% in certain cities. Only 10-20% of workforce is able to come today. Until yesterday, we were running at 70-80% store employee attendance. We have sufficient stock of daily essentials but we do not have enough employees coming to work. We are also being told to operate for only 2-3 hours in certain cities," a company spokesperson said.

Mint had earlier reported that strict lockdowns in several states over the past few days have caused a disruption in the supply and movement of essential goods. As a result, despite stores being open, and companies continuing to manufacture goods, stocks are not reaching stores on time.

Kampani said retailers too were facing difficulties ensuring movement of goods from their distribution centres to retail shelves. The retailer, which has 14 distribution centres for dry packaged goods and another seven for fresh produce, said that its centres are not all fully operational.

However, Kampani added that if the situation persists for another two to three days, “we will have a big problem of stock availability".

In its circular issued on Tuesday, the government also encouraged home deliveries. Retailers said they are ready with the right processes, but are seeking clarity with regards to using small vehicles to deliver their goods, and ensure they have enough staff in stores to carry them out.

“It is a work in progress, we have made some solid progress in terms of having internal processes in places for delivery," said Sadashiv Nayak, chief executive officer, Big Bazaar, part of Future Retail. However, barriers exist when it comes to movement of vehicles or even manpower.

Nayak said that the retailer, which operates several grocery format stores including Easy Day, witnessed a “patchy situation" on Wednesday. “In some parts, our staff could not reach the stores. In some cases, warehouses are facing issues and we are in talks with the authorities to ensure swift functioning." Things were improving by the hour, as local authorities step in to help out, he said.

The local arm of German cash and carry retailer Metro said that starting Monday, some of its stores had started closing. However, by Wednesday, eight of its 27 outlets had not resumed operations, even as its existing stores operated on fewer staff. “We saw dwindling attendance today morning at some of our stores," said Arvind Mediratta, Managing Director & CEO, Metro Cash & Carry India.

My Reads Logout