These include rigorous sanitization and social distancing measures as well as focus on digital payments as opposed to cash transactions. Operating costs of
are likely to increase by 15-35 per cent once the SOPs are implemented, the firms said.
Retailers are also demanding that home delivery across all forms of retail should be allowed to ensure a level playing field. Currently, e-tailers
and offline retailers
selling essential goods are allowed to carry out home deliveries. The relaxation given by the Ministry of Home Affairs
(MHA) to e-tailers, permitting delivery of non-essential goods, was withdrawn on Sunday after the Confederation of All India Traders objected to it.
The RAI had also written to the government saying that permitting one side of retail (e-retail) to deliver non-essential goods would be detrimental to the industry at a time when the business is under stress.
In a survey conducted by the RAI, nearly 25 per cent retailers have said they will exit the sector following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, since sales have come to a halt, while fixed costs have continued.
In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, B S Nagesh, chairman of RAI, said retailers and mall owners were prepared to follow all social distancing norms, including operating single shifts, working during off-peak hours, allowing limited entry of people in stores and sanitization of staff, customers and high-contact points within outlets, to ensure safety and hygiene.
“The government has partnered manufacturers to resume operations with safety standards in place in select zones. These discussions need to take place with retailers as well so that shopping can start in a safe environment,” Kulin Lalbhai, executive director of Arvind, said.
Rakesh Biyani, managing director of Future Retail, said at least 30-35 per cent of existing working capital needs of retailers would have to be financed (by banks), so that players could get back on their feet. “There is need for support from the government in this matter, so that the consumption cycle can resume,” he said.
Sandeep Kataria, chief executive officer of Bata, said the government needed to have a graded plan to resume non-essential retail. "Not only stores, but e-commerce for non-essential retail also has to be allowed so that we can exhaust our inventory. Resuming manufacturing makes no sense, if retail is not permitted," he said.
The MHA guidelines have permitted industrial units and farming operations to resume in rural areas, apart from construction activities in select zones. Strict social distancing norms, however, have to be maintained when conducting these operations.
On Tuesday, industry players such as Riyaaz Amlani of Impresario Hospitality, Alok Tandon of Inox Leisure and Dalip Sehgal of Nexus Malls had said they would consider restricted business hours, contactless shopping and dining as a way forward to resume business after the lockdown.