“People have already gone through a lot of hardship and they see this is a crisis that is not going to go away soon,” said Dhruv Bogra, country manager for Forever New that has seen online traffic in April decline by 30% compared to March. “This is creating greater anxiety and uncertainty than before.”
Online has been a saviour during the pandemic last year when e-commerce businesses soared double or triple times for most brands. But in the latest spike this year, even online is dragging as sales have dropped 20-30% in April compared to March.
“People are more concerned about their near and dear ones and the immediate priority is health and safety of family and friends and that’s where shopping has taken a back seat,” said Sundeep Chugh, CEO of Benetton India, one of the largest online selling brands in India. Chugh said online sales have plummeted by 15-20% after the first week of April this year.
Omni-channel enabler Ace Turtle, which handles end-to-end online sales for brands including Fossil, RayBan, Lifestyle, Skechers, Tommy Hilfiger among other labels, said e-commerce sales for the brands it is handling have declined by 12-14% in March-April compared to January-February. Rival ANS Commerce that manages Jack & Jones, Bath & Body Works, Celio and Aldo among other labels, said e-commerce orders were down 20% on Sunday – figures available for latest daily orders – compared to any other single day average.
Some brands have again introduced deep discounting in April – traditionally a good business month – in a bid to prop up sales amid lockdowns in Delhi and Mumbai and weekend curfews in many other cities.
Brands are offering steep discounts through text messages or on the social media. Marks & Spencer is providing up to 50% discounts, Acics is offering flat 40% plus an additional 15%, Jack & Jones has flat 50% off while Celio also had flat 40% plus 10% rebate of pre-paid orders. However, some brands are saying that there is no point offering discounts as malls in bigger cities are shut and consumers are also curtailing discretionary online purchases.
“When markets are closed and you walk-ins are down by 70%, there is no point going on a sale,” said Chugh of Benetton.