Pandemic-hit Indian retailers are cautiously optimistic about 2021, according to a survey by the Retailers Association of India (RAI) that indicated a steady month-on-month recovery for retail businesses across India, with sales in November this year being 13 per cent short of the sales during the same month in 2019. Festive shopping triggered the recovery.

“Retailers are moving towards 2021 with cautious optimism. However, the industry is hopeful of achieving nearly 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels of business in the next six months,” RAI chief executive officer Kumar Rajagopalan said in a statement.

In November, consumer durables and electronics category continued to recover with sales at 12 per cent year on year (YoY) and food and grocery category have started to indicate sales growth at 5 per cent YoY, while the apparel and clothing segment is still reeling under pressure with nearly minus 12 per cent YoY behind pre-pandemic sales.

Rajagopalan said while the festive and the muted wedding season aided some recovery for certain segments, the lack of inbound travel of non-resident Indians during the winter has had a negative impact on sales.

He was of the view that retail businesses may get further affected by international travel restrictions being imposed due to the new strain of the virus.

As per the survey, levels of recovery differ across regions as restrictions begin to ease in a capricious manner across states.

Western and eastern India are indicating a slower recovery with sales at minus 18 per cent YoY and minus 17 per cent YoY respectively, while northern and southern regions are both progressing at minus 9 per cent YoY.

Recovery would need unconventional solutions and government support. At this juncture, all efforts are required to boost the local economy and help revive the retail sector, saving millions of jobs, said a RAI statement.