Large retailers to focus purely on e-commerce during lockdown 2.0 due to exemption

KOLKATA/DELHI: With the government allowing e-commerce as an exempted sector in Lockdown 2.0, brick-and-mortar retail chains are scrambling to spruce up their digital sales initiatives to make the most of this lifeline.

Leading retailers such as Reliance Retail, Lifestyle, Levi Strauss, Madura Fashion and Lifestyle, Arvind Fashions, Vijay Sales and Great Eastern Retail said they are going to expand their initiatives on online sales when the restrictions are eased on online sales of non-essentials from April 21.

“With e-commerce, at least we have some opening now which is a one positive step,” said J Suresh, MD at Arvind Fashions which runs stores of multiple brands like US Polo Assn, Sephora, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. “Our full focus will now be on scaling up our digital presence and app,” he said.

Departmental store Lifestyle International MD Vasanth Kumar said with the government permitting e-commerce operations, it is an opportunity to drive omni-channel adoption. He said the retailer has a “robust plan” in place.

Some of the large retailers are re-designing their own e-stores and apps, while looking to partner with marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart. They are also exploring partnership opportunities with hyperlocal delivery players the way food-and-grocery retailers undertook.

Sanjeev Mohanty, MD (South Asia, Middle East & North Africa) at Levi Strauss, said the spring and summer inventory is already there with e commerce partners like Flipkart, Myntra, AJIO and Amazon. “Demand generation will be the key and our partners are very good at that,” he said.

Reliance Retail will also scale up its lifestyle app and online sales of electronics and mobile phones through the Reliance Digital e-store, a company executive said.

The relief from the government comes at a time when retailers have been struggling with high over-heads and no revenue due to the lockdown. The government has still not indicated when shopping malls and non-essential physical stores can open, while the lockdown has been extended till May 3.

Madura Fashion and Lifestyle CEO Vishak Kumar said there is a fair amount of pent-up demand with customers. He said the retailer will sell through e-stores of the brands like Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly and Peter England, and online marketplaces.

North and East’s leading electronics retailer Great Eastern Retail director Pulkit Baid said almost all electronics and smartphone retailers have a dormant e-store which will be revived now.

E-commerce accounts for single digit contribution to sales for most brands whereby scaling up will also take time. However, the industry was preparing for this scenario since even after malls open there is unlikely to be a rush of consumers in fear of catching the virus.

Industry body Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan said it has reached out to government to include home delivery and not just e-commerce so that even the small and medium retailers can deliver to home. He said the large chains are already on e-commerce.

Leading electronics store chain Vijay Sales director Nilesh Gupta said the centre guidelines on allowing e-commerce is a broad framework and will depend on the state governments on implementation. “We have to do our e–commerce business sensibly so that the clamp down is not again imposed,” he said.

Grofers head of supply chain Rohit Sharma said if retailers approach them it can set them with the strong logistics partner network it has.

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