Retailers look at 2021 with cautious optimism

Covid-hit retailers are looking at the upcoming year 2021 with cautious optimism, shows a survey by the Retailers Association of India (RAI).

The Retail Business Survey indicated a steady month-on-month recovery for retail businesses across India, with sales in November 2020 being 13 per cent short of the sales during the corresponding period last year.

This recovery came on the back of festive shopping.

In November 2020, consumer durables and electronics category continued to recover with sales at 12 per cent (Y-o-Y) and food and grocery category have started to indicate sales growth at 5 per cent (Y-o-Y), while the apparel and clothing segment is still reeling under pressure with nearly (-)12 per cent (Y-o-Y) behind pre-pandemic sales.

Speaking on the current state of the retail industry, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI, said, “While the festive and the muted wedding season aided some recovery for certain segments, the lack of inbound travel of non-resident Indians (NRIs) during the winter has had a negative impact on sales.”

He was of the view that retail businesses may get further impacted by international travel restrictions being imposed due to the new strain of the virus.

“Furthermore, with local level restrictions coming back into play, retailers are moving towards 2021 with cautious optimism. However, the industry is hopeful of achieving nearly 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels of business in the next six months,” Rajagopalan said.

As per the survey, levels of recovery differ across regions as restrictions begin to ease in a capricious manner across states.

Western and eastern India are indicating a slower recovery with sales at (-)18 per cent and (-)17 per cent, respectively (Y-o-Y), while northern and southern regions are both progressing at (-)9 per cent on a Y-o-Y comparison.

Recovery would need unconventional solutions and government support. At this juncture, all efforts are required to boost the local economy and help revive the retail sector, saving millions of jobs, said the RAI statement.