Chennai: While retailers hope for a significant recovery in sales during the upcoming festive season, they are cautious about hiring. The fear of a third wave of the pandemic is making them sit with fingers crossed.
Most of the categories, including FMCG and consumer durables and electronics, are expecting the festive season sales to touch pre-pandemic levels this time.
According to B. Thiagarajan, joint MD of Bluestar, the last festive season touched 85 per cent of the pre-pandemic sales and this time it would be 100 per cent.
Retail stores usually hire more hands for in-store promotions and installations during the festive season. Apart from the traditional white goods, a few categories like dish-washers, refrigerators, microwave ovens have grown significantly, which need skilled manpower for demonstrations and installations.
However, brick-and-mortar store retailers are not hiring as many people as they used to during the pre-pandemic times. "Last festive season, the hiring was just 20 per cent of 2019 and this time it could be around 40 per cent. Retailers are upbeat about sales, but are apprehensive about how a possible third wave could affect the physical store sales," said BalaSubramanian A., business head (consumer and healthcare), TeamLease Services.
According to him, since the lockdown restrictions have been lifted, customers are coming out to shop. But the uncertainty still remains. After robust sales in June and July due to the pent-up demand, sales have been slow in August even for categories like fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).
"Hiring of temporary staff has gone up and this year's hiring would be better than last year, but not as good as pre-pandemic years. There is no slump for the manufacturers. But retailers are cautious," said Suchita Dutta, executive director, Indian Staffing Federation.
According to her, the change in shopping behaviour too is making retailers wary. The new hybrid model, which combines both online and offline, has become popular even in smaller cities. Mobile phones, which now account for 52 per cent of sales in the consumer durables and electronics category, are largely sold online. Rest of the goods, including TVs, refrigerators, air-conditioners, computers and peripherals, account for 48 per cent of the sales.