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Retailers, restaurants say tough to bear losses again



BENGALURU: Restaurants, pubs, and retailers are once again staring into a dark abyss as more metros go into lockdowns.Many restaurants across the country shut down last year after the painful two-and-a-half months of lockdown. More are expected to now follow suit, unable to bear losses for a second year on the trot.

“Considering that Bengaluru is now the hotspot, there will be quite a bit of fear even when the lockdown ends,” said Prathik Shetty, owner of The Reservoir restaurant. “Restaurants and bars were the last ones to open, in September, and just when things had started looking better, it is back to the same situation. It is a question of survival now.”

Restaurants across the country had seen sales pick up since opening before the festive season, and by December, footfalls were robust with weekends reporting near full capacity. The first three months of this year recorded more sales than the same period last year and takeaways and deliveries had slightly dipped as people became confident and went outdoors.

Sibi Venkataraju, owner of brewpub Toit, says he expects a similar cycle – 3-4 months of pain, with some hope of an upswing by the end of the year. “We lost money last year, and March and April were slowdowns as the number of cases started rising. January and February were at about 80% of pre-Covid levels. But it is a challenge to survive for two years with this impact,” he said.

Malls, just like restaurants, are also facing an uncertain future with retailers set to discuss with them about rental waivers or entering into a revenue sharing model. The Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) said in a statement last week that the local restrictions, closure of malls in a few states, weekend curfews have impacted business, recovery, and employment associated with organised retail. Malls across India, it said, had recovered close to 90% of their business and 75% of their footfalls after the collapse last year. “On an average, during pre-Covid days, the industry was clocking Rs 15,000 crore per month and had reached the same during mid of March 2021, but, with the local restrictions, almost 50% revenue slashed,” it said.

Nitin Mohan, co-founder and director of BlackBerrys , said the state lockdowns have led to shut down of about 33% of his total outlets in the three major cities in malls and high streets. “I am not sure how quick the confidence among customers will return as this time they are really scared,” he said.

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