The lockdown and work from home period has underscored the importance of consumer durables and electronic products, and such items will feature high on people’s shopping lists once the curbs are relaxed, as per retail store chain Croma.
Products such as laptops, smartphones and printers have become crucial for those working from home, while household appliances like washing machines, ACs, TVs and vacuum cleaners are now more important than ever for households.
“These are all likely to feature high on the list of people as they come out of lockdown, especially since there is already talk of scenarios where another lockdown might be required,” Infiniti Retail CMO Ritesh Ghosal told PTI.
Infiniti Retail, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons, runs the Croma brand of stores.
However, like other retailers, Croma is also expecting a hit on business due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown.
“We have lost business for between one and two weeks in March depending on the store and the city and the first 15 days of April, at the very least. So yes, it is going to affect our business performance for these two quarters.
“Further, as this is the period the summer sets in across the country and cooling gadgets like ACs, refrigerators and coolers sell in large quantities, the lost sales will impact the annual performance of these key categories,” he added.
The company is also factoring in disruptions in supply of several key categories once the lockdown ends.
“There will be disruptions in supply in several categories as they rely on a heavily globalised supply chain. Till things do not settle down across the world, supplies of electronic gadgets will stay unreliable,” said Ghosal.
The appliances and consumer electronics industry was already facing shortage of components from China since February and March.
Asked whether the e-commerce sector would gain prominence in sales of consumer durables once the lockdown period ends, Ghosal said people are “disillusioned” with the unreliability of e-retail logistics.
“In India, the lockdown has seen a complete collapse of the logistics arms of the e-commerce sector and people are fairly disillusioned with this sector.
“Retailers across the spectrum are waking up to the e-commerce opportunity and e-commerce is waking up to the reality that they really do not the robustness of operations to deliver to the market’s expectation,” he said.
Croma has presence in both offline and online platforms. It presently operates over 150 stores across 45 major cities.
“Croma has a digital arm which enables digital purchases, offers assisted shopping by store staff and express delivery from the nearest store. We are ready and equipped to scale up this service for customers hesitant to step out of their homes,” he added.
Despite the sluggish business environment, Croma would go ahead with its expansion plans.
“Currently, there are a handful of stores ready for opening plus another set in various stages of fit-out. Beyond this, we have a pipeline in progress till 2025. At this point, there is no decision to pull back or pause the expansion.
“We have faith in our business model and also that the future of India is bright. If not in a quarter or two, definitely sometime soon India will resume its status as the fastest growing major economy in the world and we want to be in a position to be part of that story,” said Ghosal.
Croma is also in touch with its property owners and is negotiating waiver of rents for the lockdown period like other retailers.
“This is a time of crisis for both us and them. We are all trying to navigate the financial nightmare of unsold inventory on the one hand and salary and interest payments on the other. I cannot say what the final outcome will be only that we are sailing in the same boat and will jointly figure a way out,” he said.
The company plans to put in place protective security measures for customers and staff once operations resume. including screening at entry, frequent sanitization and appropriate protective gear for employees. Outlook India