Retail sales down with Omicron in December

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani | | Updated on: Jan 11, 2022
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Retailers’ Assn says domestic sales grew just 7% over December 2019

Retail sales slowed in December compared to the pre-pandemic levels with fresh curbs kicking-in in the last week of the month to curb rising Covid cases.

According to the Retail Business Survey released by the Retailers Association of India (RAI), sales grew 7 per cent in December compared to the same month of 2019 and by 26 per cent compared to December 2020.

However, in November 2021, retail sales had grown 9 per cent over the same month of 2019. Thanks to the festival season, retail sales in October 2021 was pegged 14 per cent higher than in October 2019 by the RAI’s monthly survey. Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India, said, “Retail business was on a steady growth trajectory for most of December. However, the pace of growth was seen dropping off significantly towards the last week due to the fresh sets of curbs imposed in most parts of the country owing to the third wave of the pandemic.”

Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Aero Club which owns the Woodland brand, echoed the sentiment: “Starting last week of December, we began seeing a drop in footfalls at stores in certain parts of the country.

In January, sales have been impacted significantly with various restrictions being imposed. The other key challenge, as seen in the past waves, is that once restrictions are eased it takes some time for the recovery to gather momentum.”

Category-wise growth

RAI’s survey noted that in certain categories a de-growth was already visible in December compared to the pre-pandemic levels. While the ‘beauty, wellness and personal-care’ segment saw a de-growth of 7 per cent compared to December 2019, sales in the ‘furniture and furnishings’ segment were down 5 per cent. “Sales across consumer durables and electronics (down 26 per cent), sports goods (14 per cent), jewellery (9 per cent), footwear (7 per cent), and apparel and clothing (2 per cent) compared to pre-pandemic levels too started to lose steam,” the survey noted.

In terms of geographies, RAI put retail sales growth in the South in December 8 per cent higher than in the same month of 2019. Retail sales grew about 10 per cent in the North compared to pre-pandemic levels, and 9 per cent in the west and 3 per cent in the East.

The industry body said that it has appealed to the Centre to instruct States to refrain from imposing restrictions based on the positivity rate but consider hospitalisation as the criterion as much of the population is vaccinated.

“Doing so will avoid unnecessary panic among citizens and businesses while minimising the impact on livelihoods,” Rajagopalan said.

Published on January 11, 2022

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