Retailers and Traders Still Unclear About Guidelines as the Centre Eases Restrictions

The Indian government has eased restrictions for traders and retailers but its guidelines are still unclear, arising dilemma amid entrepreneurs
  • BY Jaspreet Kaur

    Feature Writer, BusinessEx

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  • May 04,2020
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  • 16 Mins Read

As India is striving to control the spread of Coronavirus, its economy is sliding down. The government implemented lockdown since late March across the nation and averted companies to operate physically at their premises. By doing so, many companies are adversely affected as the lockdown ceased their operations, impacted customer rapports, decreased sales and lastly, generated poor or no revenue. To handle this adversity, many companies have shrunken their enterprises, laid off hundreds and thousands of employees, are looking for investors and going for bridge financing rounds.

Seeing the plummeted economy, the Indian government has taken a move to reopen small enterprises, particularly retailing and trading entities in less affected areas. In the third phase of lockdown (Lockdown 3.0), the government has eased new directives for retailers and traders and allowed them to reopen more shops.   

Despite relaxing guidelines for business enterprises, small traders and companies are still uncertain about it. The traders, as well as retailers, are seeking clarity as many states have not conformed to the central government’s guidelines yet. 

Uncertainty Regarding New Guidelines among Traders and Retailers 

As newly announced directives are unclear, business entities are skeptical about guidelines and requirements mentioned within them. 

"It will have to be seen how it works out at the ground as there is confusion, and many states are yet to come up with guidelines to follow the Centre's decision. It has already stated that what constitutes market places could be misinterpreted," Retailers Association of India (RAI) said in an interview with Press Trust of India (PTI).

In a similar vein, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said that they will be in a "dilemma" as there is confusion over "what constitutes a neighbourhood shop and a standalone shop", while organised retailers such as Future Group and V-Mart Retail said they are also seeking permissions from local authorities, reported the cited media agency. 

"In any case individual states will have to come out with clear guidelines. While some states have come out with the guidelines but they are the same as what the Centre has said. I think the states are also confused and they are printing the same thing that the Centre is sending," RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan told the cited media agency.

Retailers and Traders Would Restart Selling Non-essential Items

Assessing the demands of the Indian population, which incorporates elites, upper middle class, lower middle class and paupers, amenities from one class may not be an amenity for another. Recognising varied demands of the populace, the companies, particularly in retailing space are planning to start selling non-essential items besides essential commodities and food. 

As per the leading retailer Future Group, the company would now start retailing other than non-essential and food items wherever allowed after the new notification.

"Inside Big Bazar, we would be now able to sell not just food and essentials only but also other items as crockery, kitchenware and general merchandise. Even at Big Bazaar, at certain places we would start selling other products apart from food," an official of Future Group told the cited media agency. 

The Future Group, which runs in various forms like Big Bazaar and Easyday, informed that it is in underway to get approval to reopen stores in the green zone.

"Wherever, we have standalone stores in the green zone, we are also figuring out with the authorities when to start operating," an official told.

According to another official of The Future Group, most of the retailer's big format stores like Big Bazaar are established in malls, which have been kept closed even during the second phase of the lockdown.

"It is gearing to open the stores in the green and orange zone but reiterated that there is a need for clarification on the difference between malls and standalone stores, especially in small towns," Value fashion and lifestyle products retailer, V-Mart Retail told the cited media agency. 

"We have around 62 stores in the green zone and 98 are in orange, where there are chances that the stores would open. We are in talks with the local administration to allow the stores to open," Retail Chairman and MD at V-Mart, Lalit Agarwal told. 

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs' guidelines, malls will remain closed in all zones. 

In the red zone, malls, market complexes and markets will remain shut in urban regions that are within periphery of municipal corporations and municipalities. However, shops selling essential goods in markets and market complexes are allowed. 

The shops that are allowed in the urban regions are standalone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complexes, sans any restriction of essential and non-essential. In rural regions, all shops, apart from malls, are allowed to reopen without any difference of essential and non-essential but social distancing is a prerequisite in all cases. While in the green zones, there are not any restrictions for marketplaces, neighbourhoods and standalone shops.

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