India is in phase 3 of its lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the
novel coronavirus has had a terrible humanitarian impact, it has exacted an appalling toll
from economies all over the world. One of the worst hit sectors of the economy is Retail.
Apparel and accessories are set to be the hardest hit retail sectors with the global apparel
market forecast to decline 15.2 percent this year (equivalent to $297bn), says GlobalData,
a leading data and analytics company, although the recovery has already started across
markets released from lockdown and social-distancing measures.

With states easing stay-at-home restrictions, several fashion retailers are implementing
reopening strategies. However, all retailers are expecting central and state governments
to impose strict regulations on stores when allowing them to reopen to limit the spread of
COVID-19 and are prepping themselves to comply with these regulations. In fact, many,
like Bata India are even coming up with additional voluntary initiatives of their own.

Recently, Bata India reopened 300+ stores in green zones in the country. In a webinar
organised by Retailers Association of India, Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India spoke about
the company’s approach while opening these temporarily closed stores saying that the
company’s priority is to conserve money by reducing the cash burn rate and sustaining the
business throughout.

The other main concern is the support the safety of its employees and consumers.

Another area that will be targeted is to build better and stronger consumer relationships.
According to Kataria, the company is working on its direct home delivery channel. “We
have never done this in the history of its footwear business, but anything that makes it
easier to keep shoppers re-assured will be stressed upon,” he said.

As of now, the footwear retailer is even taking WhatsApp orders in an effort to be as
accessible to consumers as possible.

“Consumption through online channel will increase as consumers will hesitate to go out.
They will stay at home and will do all their necessary shopping online. In the short term,
online is bound to grow while, in the long term, growth will depend on the services
delivered by a retailer and consequently, the brick-and-mortar stores will have to reinvent
themselves,” Kataria explained.

While reviving the business in the coming months, the company will attempt to increase
its productivity. In the initial 6 months, they anticipate to move ahead with 50 to 60
percent turnover and in the later months, they aim to achieve at least 90 percent of the
turnover.

The company is working hard towards finding the right solutions for its consumers and
wants to leverage on this opportunity. “If you have earned the trust of your consumers,
then this is the time to reap its benefit and be rewarded. Consumers in turn will reward
those businesses who have stood by them in difficult time. This is also an opportunity for
brands to do better. When consumers will come out of this crisis, they will return to trusted
brands,” concluded Kataria.