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April 21, 2021

Chain stores fear collapse as limited business bites


April 21, 2021

LAHORE: The government should change the working hours for markets and shopping malls to 2pm to 12am (midnight) to save domestic commerce from bankruptcy, organised retail sector officials said on Tuesday.

“The retail sector has been facing crisis like situation for the second consecutive year as the markets/malls timings have again been reduced in the wake of third wave of Covid-19,” representatives of Chainstores Association of Pakistan (CAP) said.

“The sector has witnessed a drastic drop in sales which may result in financial liabilities for the sector. It will further add to the unemployment and the payments to supply chain and sharp decline in taxes.”

CAP officials said the government efforts to control the spread of the pandemic were commendable amid the third wave, adding however it was imperative for the authorities to review timings of markets and malls to salvage peak season and ensure business continuity.

“The enforcement of SOPs and restrictions on unnecessary movement of the general public are needed and the efforts of the authorities to balance safety and economic activity are commendable,” Tariq Mehboob, Chairman CAP said while talking to The News

“At the same time, it is crucial that input of the business community be included to ensure that the best intentions and on-ground strategy are aligned.”

The reduced retail timings till 6pm on weekdays and closure on Saturday and Sunday had drastically reduced business activity to less than half of normal across the country, Mehboob said adding that a number of factors had hit the retail sector very badly and it is on the brink of collapse.

A study conducted by the CAP from its members’ brands found out that almost 70 percent of sales occurred during the proposed timings of 2:00 pm to 12am, he said.

Thus, he Mehboob added it would be an appropriate time for the markets and shopping malls to operate during the remaining days of Ramzan.

Mehboob said CAP had suggested the timings in the light of data base information available with the sector about shopping habits and pattern, especially in Ramzan.

“During the Holy month of Ramazan, majority of people do not step out during the day and only do so in the night after opening their fast.”

Similarly, many citizens with day jobs and household duties during those hours would not be able tovisit the markets and shopping malls for their Eid shopping, he added.

“Retail businesses have invested billions of rupees in stocks for the Eid season and due to the full lockdown last year their inventory has been stuck for the last 12 months and need to be sold.”

Further, Mehboob said the payments against supplies might not be possible and could adversely affect liquidity of over 70 allied sectors including domestic manufacturing, cottage industries, wholesale and dozens of other upstream businesses.