As some States and cities re-impose restrictions such as night curfews in response to rising numbers of Covid infections, retailers, multiplexes and mall owners have raised concerns about the adverse economic impact of such restrictions on their businesses.

Retailers Association of India, Multiplex Association of India and Shopping Centres Association of India have expressed concerns about these ad hoc localised restrictions and said that it has begun hurting the recovery of various sectors.

This comes at a time when States such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Chhattisgarh have re-imposed night curfews in several districts. Maharashtra has also asked malls, cinemas and restaurants to shut by 8 pm, while random testing is being conducted in public places in Mumbai. At the same time, fears and speculations of another lockdown in Maharashtra are rife.

Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI) said, “Any knee-jerk reaction can have huge financial repercussions for the organised retail sector which has just about started witnessing signs of recovery. We are concerned about the arbitrary restrictions being imposed on malls, multiplexes and restaurants in various parts of the country. We need a co-ordinated national strategy to handle the rise in Covid-19 cases rather than creating diverse restrictions at the local level such as weekend lockdowns, shutdown at 8 pm and arbitrary testing at malls..”

“Malls, retailers and multiplex industry are becoming easy targets for some authorities. In fact the organised retail sector can play a key role in supporting the government’s vaccination efforts,” he added.

Reacting to speculation regarding possibility of another lockdown in Maharashtra, Multiplex Association of India has written to the Maharashtra Chief Minister stating that any kind of lockdown is going to negatively impact the cinema, retail and shopping industry as it will deter consumers from visiting malls and cinemas but, “also put into motion a downward spiralling effect on cinema industry and modern retail that could derail recovery of these segments.”

“An imposition of a second lockdown in Maharashtra will lead to all Hindi films (and films in other languages) being postponed, this will create an extremely adverse and hostile situation for cinemas across the nation. A second lockdown will be extremely detrimental and would lead to severe and irreversible consequences for cinema exhibition sector,” MAI stated in its letter.

Kamal Gianchandani, President, Multiplex Association of India said, “The multiplex industry has been facing unprecedented challenging situations in the past few months. Just as the sector is moving towards recovery, as business is doing well in the southern region, speculations about another lockdown in Maharashtra, which is a key hub for the film industry and a key film territory, has sparked serious concerns about the financial impact. The authorities should note that cinemas and malls are in a better position to limit crowds and deploy the requisite mechanisms and guidelines for crowd control and social distancing.”

Already mall owners in Maharashtra said they are witnessing a drop in occupancies. Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall said occupancies have nearly halved to 30-40 per cent in recent days for mall owners especially in Mumbai. “ Restrictions on operational hours is some cities is leading to an economic turmoil for the industry. Random testing for which customers need to pay at malls in Mumbai has adversely impacted consumer sentiment. This is creating a discriminatory environment for malls and retailers,” he added.