Incessant rains since Mon. 8 Nov. ’21 has thrown the Retail business out of gear, after a rock solid Deepavali Sale during the week ahead of the festival. From neighbourhood grocery stores to large format traditional retail stores selling apparel, electronics & household items as well as the Organised Retail Chains spanning fashion, accessories, footwear, household, etc., almost all of them reported 2x – 5x increase in their sales over the past year, which was a damp squib due to the pandemic led lockdown as well as uncertainty over jobs, career, business and agricultural income. Just as the Retail sales seemed to have arrived to pre-pandemic levels around Oct. ’21, the North East Monsoon led rains have played havoc all through the week. Retailers are piled up with unsold inventory, which was part of the Deepavali stock and are staring an uncertain month amidst unplanned and sudden losses.
Ganesh Kumar (name changed) whose family runs a traditional Indian wear clothing store at Chennai’s eponymous T. Nagar area and a 3rd generation entrepreneur fumed at the civic apathy and the ignorance with which the “Chennai Smart City” works were carried out by the previous AIADMK Government. “They inaugurated the entire pedestrian walkway in a hurry last year, just to prove a point ahead of the State Assembly Elections, even though the area had hardly any customers at the time due to lockdown. The contractors dumped the debris sporadically due to which the drains across this area are clogged now, adding to our woes“. The 3 sq. km radius shopping district attracts millions of shoppers every year and is home to some of the largest traditional retail business in the state, which have originated here. It is said that if a shopkeeper or a Brand cannot do business in the Pondy Bazaar / T. Nagar area in Chennai, then they can never do business and be successful anywhere else in the city. Such is the popularity and the demographic customer mix in the area that brands line-up to get a slice of the customer’s wallet. From internationally acclaimed Mc Donalds to a 50 year legacy restaurant such as “Geeta Bhavan” which serves traditional South Indian food and filter coffee, the 800 metre stretch houses almost every category of consumer products and food & beverage.
Restaurant owners are an aggrieved lot now. Murugan, who runs 6 family restaurants across North Chennai said he had purchased lakhs worth of raw materials and ingredients in the follow up to Deepavali expecting huge business. But that’s not to be. With continued rains, not only those like him have lost even their daily business but the raw materials have gone waste, including meat products and vegetables. Along with thousands, those like Murugan are staring at huge losses in the current month. Malls have started seeing footfalls trickle through the past few months after several months of lockdown which will once again be dented due to the ongoing rains. Though there are no big film releases, the recent one feat Superstar Rajinikanth has pulled the audience to multiplexes and theatres alike. But this week witnessed weak collections due to the incessant rains, giving no reason for patrons to visit a mall. It could take a few days, or even 2-3 weeks for a semblance of normalcy to return to the rain soaked city!