Flipkart, Amazon line up sales in May to help revive demand for non-essentials

KOLKATA: India’s two largest ecommerce marketplaces, Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon are planning big sale events in May and have asked brands to stock up, expecting a resurgence in demand for some non-essential categories once restrictions are lifted, five senior executives of leading brands said.

Odisha on Monday allowed ecommerce sites to deliver all products during the second phase of lockdown. Several other states are thinking in similar lines, industry executives said.

Several brands, particularly those exclusive or focused on online sales, wanted the two marketplaces to provide some sales booster since their cash reserves are affected due to no sales since late last month, they said. Also, it is now certain that the nationwide lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic will get extended at least till the end of this month, although the restrictions might be eased a little in areas where the novel coronavirus infection is low.

Amazon and Flipkart have provided inputs to governments and brands that consumers are currently searching for several non-food and grocery items including smartphone, laptop, tablet, AC, refrigerator, washing machine, fan, printer, webcam, vacuum cleaner, television and other household products.

The marketplaces expect some surge in these categories due to pent-up demand once the restrictions on non-food and grocery items are lifted.

Several brands said discounts will be limited during the proposed online sales period because they expect much of the purchases to be driven by necessity and not discretionary purchases that generally happen during sales.

Also, many brands are grappling with supply chain issues with stress on inventory as their production and imports are stuck.

Madhav Sheth, chief executive of smartphone maker Realme India, said that the ecommerce platforms and brands have sales events planned for May. “But there may not be deep discounting, since there is supply chain disruption ever since the lockdown and stocks are limited,” he said.

Sheth said several consumers are looking for connecting devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets and accessories for both work from home and online education.

Avneet Singh, chief executive of SPPL that makes Kodak and Thomson TV brands in India, said the ecommerce marketplaces have shared how several new consumers in the age group of mid-thirties and above have for the first time started to purchase online during the lockdown, which will help boost online sales after the restrictions are lifted. “Online sales will start to pick up once restrictions are removed and may get a boost during the sales events planned next month,” he said.

Emails sent to Flipkart and Amazon remained unanswered as of Monday press time.

A senior executive of one of the marketplaces said state governments need to realise that ecommerce is the only channel to balance needs of social distancing with growth. “This is especially relevant to MSMEs, sellers and brands,” he said n condition of anonymity. “Consumer sentiments are down and may remain so for some time, but people will buy what they need.”

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has suggested opening up of non-essential services during the second phase of lockdown “to improve the economic activity and provide liquidity in the hands of the people”.

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