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Business News/ News / India/  Retailers seek longer store timings, permits to sell non-essential items
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Retailers seek longer store timings, permits to sell non-essential items

Retailers seek expansion of store operating hours from current 4 hours to 8-10 hours, vaccination for frontline retail staff and removal of “artificial distinction” between essential and non-essential goods

Retail sales were down 49% pan-India in April compared to sales in April’19, RAI said in an update last week (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)Premium
Retail sales were down 49% pan-India in April compared to sales in April’19, RAI said in an update last week (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

As state governments start lifting lockdowns with the decline in covid 19 cases, retailers and industry bodies say they should be allowed to keep stores selling essentials open for longer hours. They’re also seeking permission to sell non-essentials such as apparel, general merchandise and electronics.

Arvind Mediratta, managing director and CEO, Metro Cash and Carry India said retailers are seeking three things from the government: expansion of store operating hours from current 4 hours to 8-10 hours; vaccination for frontline retail staff; and removal of the “artificial distinction" between essential and non-essential goods.

“We’re asking that products such as kitchen items, electronics and appliances should be allowed. There are some artificial limitations on what can be sold, and they are okay for e-commerce but not for omnichannel and brick and mortar," Mediratta said. Mediratta is also chair of industry body Ficci’s committee on retail and internal trade.

States like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal continue to place restrictions on opening up of non-essential stores. However, e-commerce has not seen a blanket ban on non-essentials deliveries. In Maharashtra, some districts have allowed non-essentials purchase by e-commerce. On Monday, the state allowed a partial opening of non-essential shops.

In a set of letters written to several state governments, industry body Retailers Association of India (RAI) has once again urged state governments to permit non-food retailers to operate. “In addition to food and FMCG items, citizens also require and have been inquiring about non-food items such as clothing, personal care products, baby products, electrical and hardware items, work-related and kitchen-related essentials, among others daily," the letter said. “Non-essential shops of 1,000 sq. ft get a maximum of 10-15 footfall throughout the day and social distancing can easily be achieved," it added.

Earlier, RAI wrote to state representatives of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, and Rajasthan, and sought that non-food retailers should be encouraged to take orders over the phone and other electronic means for home deliveries.

“Allowing non-food retailers to operate and carry out home deliveries will ensure that people have fewer reasons to step outside, there is the easy availability of non-essential supplies, and stricter adherence to social distancing," RAI said.

Retail sales were down 49% pan-India in April compared to sales in April 2019, RAI said.

Anuj Poddar, executive director, Bajaj Electricals Ltd, said the consumer electronics industry through the Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association or CEAMA is seeking widening the ambit of goods that retailers can sell.

CEAMA has made representations asking for inclusion of electronic products under essential items during lockdowns. Online sales of electronics remain a grey area, said industry executives, with several states still not permitting sales of products like phones, laptops and other electronics online. “At least non-essential stores be allowed to open up for some hours and give some window for consumers to buy these things," Poddar said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 31 May 2021, 06:09 PM IST
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