Press Trust of india

Lockdown: More shops expected to re-open but confusion reigns, say retailers

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New Delhi: Retailers and traders expect to re-open more shops from Monday under the new relaxed guidelines by the government for the extended lockdown period till May 17, although they are still seeking clarity from local authorities.

Retailers Association of India (RAI) said it will have to be seen how it works out at the ground as there is confusion, and many states are yet to come up with guidelines to follow the Centre’s decision. It has already stated that what constitutes market places could be misinterpreted.

Similarly, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also claimed they will be in a “dilemma” as there is confusion over “what constitutes a neighbourhood shop and a standalone shop”, while organised retailers such as Future Group and V-Mart Retail said they are also seeking permissions from local authorities.

“Some parts of the businesses will reopen. What we see is that there is the possibility of opening of some standalone stores…We will open wherever we can and we will talk to the local authorities to open. We will have to see how it works out.

“In any case individual states will have to come out with clear guidelines. While some states have come out with the guidelines but they are the same as what Centre has said. I think the states are also confused and they are printing the same thing that Centre is sending,” RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan told PTI.

Expressing similar concerns, CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said, “The traders will be in a dilemma”.

When asked whether things are expected to change on the ground with the phase 3 of lockdown beginning Monday, he said there is “lack of clarity and confusion over what constitutes a neighbourhood shop and a standalone shop”.

He asserted that the “clarification should come from the right quarters. Not only the Centre, it is the duty of the state governments to issue that clarification because most of the issues are under the domain of the state governments, the law enforcement authorities also function as per their directives”.

National General Secretary of the Federation of All India Vyapar Mandal, V K Bansal said, “The biggest problem with the guidelines is that it all depends on the states. The states frame their own policies and do not want to take any responsibility. The Centre wants relaxation but states are restrictive”.

While wholesale markets are not allowed to open in red zones in Delhi, he said, standalone shops can open but the state government’s role was crucial in implementation of the Centre’s guidelines.

Bansal added that unavailability of migrant labour was a major issue faced by shop owners, restricting their operations.

According to the leading retailer Future group, the company would now start retailing other than non-essential and food items wherever allowed after the new notification.

“Inside Big Bazar, we would be now able to sell not just food and essentials only but also other items as crockery, kitchenware and general merchandise. Even at Big Bazaar, at certain places we would start selling other products apart from food,” said a Future group official.

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