Formal retail businesses should be allowed to operate with strict surveillance: RAI

There is an urgent need for a coordinated effort from the centre towards handling diverse restrictions at the local levels to minimise impact on economic activities.

The Retailers Association of India (RAI) appreciates the government’s intent behind trying to curb the second wave of the pandemic through various measures. However, with varied localized restrictions across states, the retail industry is beginning to see similar issues repeating in some form that were faced last year.

“Shutting down of non-essential or non-food retail and malls is not the solution. Considering the impact of last year on business, closure of economic activity at this stage will lead to permanent closure of businesses, thereby leading to millions of job losses. Instead, there is an urgent need for stricter surveillance to ensure that all rules with regards to safety & hygiene and, social distancing norms are being followed by one and all. Formal retail businesses, especially shopping centres across India have been successfully following SOPs and hence should be allowed to operate with strict surveillance” said Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI).

Furthermore, since each State/Local body has interpreted the Lockdown order and guidelines differently, along with malls, all other large format retail stores are facing restrictions and are being mandated closures at local levels. To diffuse this situation, Retailers Association of India has outlined the definition of a standalone store for easy reference for its retail members, state and local governments. RAI believes that this interpretation will help to stop unnecessary and avoidable confusion in the market.

RAI in a submission to certain State Governments has explained that a retail store, not located in a mall, should be considered a standalone store as per the following:

• The entire store is owned by one firm/company
• All billings /transitions are done under one GST Number
• Such store has a single shop and establishment license /trade license
• In case of food business such store has one food license (FSSAI)

There is an urgent need for a coordinated effort from the centre towards handling diverse restrictions at the local levels to minimise impact on economic activities. Ad hoc localised restrictions like certain formats not being allowed to operate or restricting timings of operations are not conducive for already ailing businesses to survive. Instead, there should be increased focus on amplifying awareness drives, increasing testing, strict enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour and, accelerating the vaccination drive and expanding its reach and coverage.

The entire retail industry including non-essential retail and shopping centres are keen on joining the war against COVID-19 by following social distancing protocols and safety measures.

Last year, as the surge of the pandemic lead to a complete lockdown in India, Retailers Association of India had put in place specific SOPs to be followed by different categories of retail including footwear, apparel, food and grocery, beauty and wellness, CDIT, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), jewellery and footwear as well as for Malls to follow when opening and operating physical stores. These SOPs include protocols addressing each and every aspect of efficient and safe functioning of offline stores. The SOPs have been based on a broad framework of SOPs that have been approved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and are in sync with the guidelines prescribed by the Government of India.