Retail sales continue to suffer in India on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from a business survey by the Retailers Association of India (RAI), pan-India retail sales saw a de-growth of 50 percent in June 2021 in comparison to pre-pandemic levels of June 2019.
Geographically, the eastern region of India was most impacted, with retail sales down 55 percent in June 2021. Southern and Western regions of India saw a 50 percent decline in retail sales.
However, this decline is still an improvement over retail sales in May 2021, which was down 79 percent. This is because May saw most of the country under lockdown when the second COVID-19 wave was at its peak.
The most impacted category was sports goods, which saw a 66 percent decline in sales in June 2021, followed by jewellery (-64 percent) and footwear (down 61 percent).
With people spending most of their time at home again, sales of beauty, wellness & personal care sales declined 57 percent in June, while apparel & clothing sales were down 52 percent.
Sales of consumer durables & electronics were also hit in June and were down 46 percent. This is another category that was impacted majorly due to the closure of non-essential stores during the second wave.
Even as the country continues to unlock, prices of consumer durables have seen steep price increases in the past six months due to rising input costs. Appliance makers hiked prices by about 12 percent in the first six months of 2021, and are expected to further hike prices by 3-4 percent in this quarter on the back of commodity prices rising 18-20 percent in the past six months. Industry officials have flagged that the price hikes could further hamper demand.
One category that has seen recovery is Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) that has seen a sharp recovery compared to May. While QSR sales were down 70 percent in May 2021, it was down only 10 percent in June 2021.
"Retail businesses continue to be stressed and are finding it difficult to sustain due to restricted timing of operations and weekend closures," Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI) said.
While most states have eased curbs, some like Maharashtra continue to impose stricter curbs. Currently, malls and theatres continue to remain shut in the state while restaurants and non-essential stores, which include apparel, appliance, beauty, jewellery stores among others, have to be shut on weekends while opening only until 4:00 PM on weekdays.
In fact, industry associations including RAI and the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) have been appealing to the Maharashtra government to ease curbs.
RAI appealed to the government to allow malls and shopping centres to operate at par with standalone shops and markets, while the HRAWI wrote to the Maharashtra government to allow restaurants to operate between 7:00 AM-12:30 AM on weekdays and weekends at 50 percent capacity.
First Published: IST