COVID: Restrictions likely to impact customer footfalls but have adequate stocks, say retailers

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Retailers and FMCG makers say they have adequate stocks at stores and warehouses and are prepared to manage the situation in the wake of fresh restrictions being imposed by various states amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Retailers are expecting an impact on customer footfalls in their stores but said they are monitoring the stocks, and have also suggested to the government to manage the situation with the help of technology and data rather than arbitrary lockdowns.

Some FMCG companies have already started building inventories and preponed supplies to retail outlets and stockists to ensure that consumers do not face any shortage.

According to METRO Cash and Carry India MD and CEO Arvind Mediratta, the best possible measure to control COVID-19 is through expediting the vaccination drive.

“This time around, we need to manage it better with technology and data rather than arbitrary lockdowns which affect livelihood and business. Only strict COVID norms, not lockdowns or curfew, can provide relief,” said Mediratta.

The company, which operates in the cash-and-carry segment, has better preparedness with stock availability this year. Its stores have increased visibility for COVID-related articles and have ensured adequate stock availability in all critical categories, he said.

“However, lockdown and weekend curfew are likely to impact customer footfalls and connectivity of stocks from manufacturers to distributors,” he added.

Home-grown FMCG major Dabur said in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, it has started working towards building its inventory, both of finished goods as well as raw and packing material, from last month itself.

“We have preponed supplies to retail outlets and stockists to ensure that consumers do not face any shortage in the market,” said

CEO Mohit Malhotra.

The company is also applying learnings from last year on streamlining the supply chain to ensure minimal disruption.

Kolkata-headquartered FMCG firm Emami said the weekend curfews will not have any major impact on the company.

“We have to wait and watch and I do not think that we would have a major impact on the business,” said Emami Director Harsha V Agarwal.

V-Mart Retail CMD Lalit Agarwal said though the recent surge in coronavirus cases and restrictions would impact the business, it supports any such move by the government to check its spread further.

“This is going to impact all business, especially retailers. This would also impact MSME, manufacturers and would be difficult for all to cope up with the situation,” he said.

On the inventory and stocks, Agarwal said, “The company was careful and alert after lockdown and but still you have to plan and situation was normalising. We had a good March this year and from April onwards, the impact would be there as no one has forecasted it.”

Retailers Association of India (RAI) said the weekend curfew announced in Delhi on Thursday, as well as restrictions imposed in Mumbai, may save lives but is going to impact the livelihood of people.

“We are almost going back to lockdown stages, Whether we call it Lockdown or any other name, the fact is, it is going to impact the business. We do hope this saves lives of the people and it is going to affect the livelihood for sure,” said RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan.

Asked about the quantum of impact on the trade, he said it was “too early” to comment.

On the curbs in Mumbai, Rajagopalan said almost everything has been put under the non-essential category.

“We are asking the government to allow the home delivery of the items. Currently, only essentials are allowed in Maharashtra. All kind of items should be allowed to be delivered at home,” he said. “What was defined essential in those days (lockdown) is not there this time.”

Future Group retailing brand Big Bazaar, which had recently given a push to its online sales by assuring two hours’ instant delivery at the consumers’ doorstep, said its staff is ready to handle the situation and deliver the goods to buyers.

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