New Delhi: Retail therapy has taken a backseat in the tough times of the coronavirus pandemic. For fashion and lifestyle brands, which are already witnessing a steep decline in offline sales due to closure of malls in several states, sales are not happening through the ecommerce channel either due to poor consumer sentiment.

While ecommerce sales of essentials like foodstuff and personal care items surged amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, those of fashion and lifestyle goods are taking a beating as fashion brands from jeans to shoes are reporting a 10-20% drop in online sales in the last two weeks.

As malls in multiple cities have shut over the weeks, brick-and mortar fashion retailers have seen an up to 60% decline in sales. “The online channel on the other hand is also currently seeing a drop of around 15% due to overall consumer sentiment,” said Sundeep Chugh, the CEO of Italian fashion brand Benetton that generates about 18% of the total sales from ecommerce platforms. “This may further worsen if the situation doesn’t improve as the consumer priority would be to save and spend only on immediate and important necessities of life.”

Nitin Chhabra, the CEO of Ace Turtle that manages the online business of brands including Diesel, Emporio Armani, US Polo, Skechers and Tommy Hilfiger, said sales for many brands sold through ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart as well as their own mono-sites were down 10-30% in March compared with February. “There is no demand even online. The sentiments are so poor, who will buy in fashion category?” said the CEO of a global fashion house. “When people are worried about salary and job cuts, discretionary shopping is logical to fall.”

Amid fears over the Covid-19 pandemic, various states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have ordered closure of malls as a containment measure.

“It is unfolding everyday … sales are already down 70% and still continuing to drop and day-by-day more stores are shut,” said Siddharth Bindra, the managing director of ethnic retailer Biba.

Meanwhile, online sellers of food and consumer essential are overwhelmed with orders as people stock up those products. Grofers has already sold more than one-andhalf its usual sales projection for March, the online supermarket’s co-founder, Albinder Dhindsa, said, adding: “And it is still growing.”

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