Retail Reaching pre-COVID Levels; Festival Provides Boost
The retail segment was witnessing a surge after May 2021, when second wave restrictions were eased; the festival season also acted as catalyst for the jump in sales and footfall at various malls. As per CBRE’s ‘India Retail Reboot 2021’ report, the recovery gained momentum in early 2021, especially across southern and northern cities as Pan-India retail sales in February 2021 touched almost 93% of February 2020 (pre-COVID) levels.
An Imagine Apple store in Gurugram
With the opening up of the economy post-lockdowns, the recovery has been strong. “Retail sentiments seem to be getting back on track in a strong fashion ahead of the festivities, riding on the back of strong pent up demands, managed and better COVID scenario & vaccinations being done at a rapid pace. Consumers are poised to shop heavy this season, and we are already seeing positive indicators with our iPhone 13 launch across our Tresor Imagine Apple stores. Omnichannel and e-comm traffic is on ever highest peaks already,” said Kumar Nishant, COO & VP – Group Business Operations, Tresor Systems and Tresor Healthcare.
After the second wave began in April 2021, the re-impositi on of the lockdown restrictions affected consumer confidence and purchasing activity once more. However, unlike the 2020 national lockdown, the impact on retail was less severe because most limitations were regional or localised.
“Since early June, when limitations were gradually lifted, footfalls have been steadily increasing. We have seen a significantly greater rebound from the second wave, with largely recreation-driven footfalls improving in the mall. This recovery was seen from July 2021 onwards, and retail sales achieved more than 70% of July 2019 levels,” said Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Group.
The festival season also erased the negative impact of the March 2020 lockdown, which had a detrimental influence on the selling of products that fell under ‘non-essential category’. “The receding pandemic, successful vaccination drive and the easing of limitations towards the end of 2020 led to an upsurge in foot traffic across the mall. The vaccination programme has given consumers the confidence to go shopping, which has aided the retail sector; safety measures taken by the malls should also be credited for the recovery,” added Bansal.
According to the CBRE report, “Despite easing of lockdown restrictions in Q1 2021 and only a phased presence of regional lockdown restrictions during Q3 2021, mobility index for retail and recreation improved significantly during Q3 2021 compared to the first quarter, owing to strengthening of the vaccination drive.”
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a realignment of consumption patterns and a shift in the economic growth direction. As consumer priorities shifted, the preference for “conscious spending” grew, and major modifications in consumer buying behaviour were seen. “Department stores, apparel and footwear, and electronics and appliance retailers were the hardest hit during the pandemic. However, following the relaxation of lockdown regulations, most of these categories saw an increase in sales; the festival season further provided the much-needed boost,” said Nayan Raheja of Raheja Developers.
Echoing the positive sentiment, Uddhav Poddar, Managing Director, Bhumika Group, said, “We signed up many brands and leased over 1 lakh sq. ft. of retail space at our mall in Udaipur after the second wave of COVID-19. The sentiment echoed by the well-known brands is an indication of the way market is moving. With restrictions over, people have started to move out that opened up avenues for the retail segment. The outlook looks promising as India has been able to control the spread of the pandemic through successfully administering vaccinations to a significant number of people.”