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Retailers stare at losses as Delhi too downs shutters

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The lockdown in Delhi will deal a crippling blow to retailers already reeling under dwindling sales amid the deadly second Covid-19 wave raging nationwide. Retailers said the capital shutdown could push them into losses in the first quarter.

“Business had already declined by almost 70% in Delhi as consumers stayed away from markets and the lockdown will wipe out the remaining business,” said Siddharath Bindra, managing director of ethnic apparel brand Biba.

“Now business will come to zero in Delhi,” said Bindra, whose company runs more than 30 outlets in the capital and generates more than 10% of its business from the city. “Our appeal (to the government) is they should not stop ecommerce deliveries of non-essential products. If ecommerce continues, at least some amount of business can continue.”

The government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi announced a curfew from Monday night to April 26 morning after more than 25,000 fresh Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday, the highest single-day addition for the capital since the pandemic struck India early last year.

Delhi and Mumbai are the two largest retail hubs in the country and the national capital accounts for about 10-15% of the annual business for fashion and lifestyle retailers.

According to Praveen Khandelwal, secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders, businesses stand to lose Rs 600 crore per day because of the closure.

Malls in Delhi were already shut from mid-April and saw dwindling traffic even during those weeks when the shopping centres were open. “We don’t know how long this will take. Everything is so uncertain,” said Harkirat Singh, CEO of Woodland.

Arjun Gehlot, director of Ambience Group that runs Ambience Malls, said it took almost six months for his shopping centres to get a decent crowd and business back after the nationwide lockdown last year that was eased in phases. “If this lockdown is extended, then it would be hard for us to come into the rhythm,” he said. “Now we are again into uncharted territory.”

With shutdowns in Delhi and Maharashtra and weekend curfews in various states, modern retailers stand to lose 50-70% of their overall business during such closures, said Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of Retailers Association of India. “We appreciate Delhi government’s efforts to curb the surge of the pandemic in the capital city. However, we believe that complete closure is not a solution,” the association said.

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