Reopening of Stores Depends on Getting Clarity from States: RAI

Reopening of stores in the wake of relaxation in guidelines from Centre, allowing neighbourhood and standalone shops to be open, will depend on members getting clarity from state governments, according to the Retailers Association of India (RAI).

The retailers body lamented that a series of circulars from the Centre has only "complicated" the situation and has become "very difficult to interpret".

"Members can't open it until and unless the states allow. Until states come up with a clarity, they can't open but the states are equally confused with this. It is the prerogative of states to allow stores to open, Centre is the guiding principle. Sadly, states have not got enough of clarity," RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan told PTI.

He was responding to a query on whether RAI members will be reopening stores after the Home Ministry issued circulars relaxing guidelines for the lockdown.

"RAI has told its members to get clarity from the states before they reopen," Rajagopalan added.

Referring to the series of circulars issued by the Centre, he said, "It has got complicated...It is very difficult to interpret it. While it is a welcome sign from the government that they want to open up stores...(but) the whole thing is sounding more complicated than it was before."

Arguing his point, Rajagopalan asked, "Will a departmental store in neighbourhood be allowed to open or not? Will states allow it? If (will) somebody on a high street be allowed to open or not? Clarity is not there."

The government has clarified that the latest Home Ministry order implies that all shops in rural areas, except those in shopping malls, are allowed to open, whereas in urban areas, all standalone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complexes are allowed to open.

Shops in markets/market complexes and shopping malls are not allowed to open. RAI has argued that the "current circular is open to interpretation and needs more clarity for easier implementation -- terms like market complexes are not easily understood".

Rajagopalan said the experience of selling essential items, ensuring supplies to consumers during the lockdown, should have been drawn upon while allowing other items to be sold.

To make it simpler, he said, "They (Centre) should say all kind of retailers can reopen subject to social distancing norms. Let them say that all kinds of stores, online and offline, everybody including the malls are allowed, provided the social distancing norms are strictly followed.