LAHORE: Organized retail sector requested the government to change the working hours for markets and malls to 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight), excluding two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for Iftar in order to avoid default of the domestic commerce.
The Chainstore Association of Pakistan (CAP), representative body of the organized retail sector of country Tuesday appreciated the efforts of the NCOC and governmental authorities to control the spread of the pandemic amidst the third wave of the virus.
The CAP requested the government to review timings of markets and malls to salvage peak season and ensure business continuity.
Chairman CAP Tariq Mehboob stated that 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. 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 6 p.m. on weekdays and closure on Saturday and Sunday has drastically reduced business activity to less than half of normal across the country. The number of factors have hit the retail sector very badly and it is on the brink of collapse.
Mehboob pointed out that 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 have jobs and household duties during the daytime hours and early closure deprives them of the opportunity to visit the markets and shopping malls for their Eid shopping.
“Retail businesses have invested billions of rupees in stocks for the Eid season and due to the full lockdown last year still have inventory stuck from 12 months ago which need to be sold. Further, the payments against supplies may not be possible and can adversely affect liquidity of over 70 allied sectors including domestic manufacturing, cottage industries, wholesale and dozens of other upstream businesses”, the CAP chairman added.
Additionally, the fixed expenses of retail businesses including but not limited to rents, salaries and overheads may not be sustainable and defaulting of payments may cause domino effect to the economy. The tax revenues may drop sharply due to reduced activities of retail and allied businesses.
In this prevailing scenario, the Chairman CAP suggested that if business hours and days cannot be enhanced in the short term, then the timings of normal retail in Ramazan should be revised to 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight), excluding two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for Iftar.
As per the recent NCOC guidelines, outdoor dining has already been allowed from Iftar to midnight and retail timings should be aligned similarly.
The organized retail sector which comprises of retail chains and shopping malls have proven to be the most effective at ensuring the compliance of health and safety SOPs issued by the Government and continue to set the best example for other businesses across the nation.
“If the current situation continues for another week, the prolonged reduction in business activity during the peak season may drive many businesses towards permanent closure which can lead to mass unemployment and contraction of the industry. We appeal to the Prime Minister Imran Khan and NCOC Chief Asad Umar to take our suggestions on board to keep the wheel of the economy turning during this crucial time whilst safeguarding health and livelihoods of the general population”,Mehboob stated.