With festive shopping picking up pace, retail sales in India in August 2021 recovered to 88 percent of pre-COVID levels of August 2019, the Retail Business Survey by the Retailers Association of India (RAI) indicated.
In July, retail sales were 28 percent down or at 72 percent of July 2019 levels. Retailers across the country have seen a pickup in sales with Onam, Rakshabandhan and Eid kicking off the festive season shopping this year.
According to RAI's data, the growth was led by North India where sales have almost reached pre-pandemic levels (at 98 percent), closely followed by South India where retail sales are at 97 percent of August 2019 sales. However, with malls still seeing some curbs in Maharashtra with respect to vaccination requirements, retail sales in the west were 24 percent down in August 2021 over the same period in 2019.
In terms of categories, RAI's survey indicated that the two categories that saw massive growth exceeding 2019 levels are Quick Service Restaurants (QSR), which grew 12 percent, and food & groceries, which grew at 4 percent in August.
However, beauty & wellness, which includes salons, along with apparel, footwear and jewellery are yet to catch up to the pre-pandemic levels of sales. RAI says that the overall industry sentiment will improve when the clothing and accessories category shows growth.
While apparel and clothing sales declined 12 percent in August, they still saw significant growth sequentially, after being down 37 percent in July. Similarly, Beauty, Wellness & personal sales saw a decline of 31 percent in August 2021 as compared to a 50 percent decline in July.
Sales, however, are now expected to pick up on the back of a strong festive season. "As the festive season approaches and the inoculation drive picks up pace across the country, we are hopeful that the festive shopping this year will drive positive growth for most retailers, with the possibility of some retailers doing even better sales than the pre-pandemic levels," Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI), said.
Retailers that CNBC-TV18 spoke to also indicated similar optimism with the likes of Raymond and Lifestyle expecting strong double-digit growth this festive season over pre-pandemic levels. The industry’s optimism stems from a rise in demand they’ve seen in people returning to stores to shop. Compared to last year, Raymond is expecting a 50 percent growth in festive sales.
However, RAI's Rajagopalan says that even though recovery at the moment looks encouraging across categories, retailers continue to maintain cautious optimism due to the possibility of a third wave of the pandemic.
(Edited by : Jomy Jos Pullokaran)