Kashmir’s retail sector grappling with losses
Srinagar: Even after the Covid induced restrictions have been lifted, Kashmir’s retail sector is yet to recuperate from losses incurred by them during the past few years.
Traders associated with the retail business complain that apart from Covid lockdown, the businesses in Kashmir are bleeding losses from many years.
Farhan Kitab who heads Kashmir Retailers Association (KRA) said they are facing challenges at multiple fronts and they along with other traders outfits have been reaching out to the government to apprise them about the issues.
He said that recently they wrote to the union government about the major issue that they are facing so that they can get some financial assistance in order to get back to normal.
“We have faced back to back lockdowns for the past three years starting in mid-2019. Most of the retailers are not associated with essential services so our sector continues to be one of most affected. Due to the loss in livelihood, the purchasing power of local customers has been severely dented and as per our assessment, over 70% of our retail business continues to suffer.”
“We are able record less than 20% of the business that we used to do before 2019. Covid lockdown has hit us differently, there is still restriction on the gathering in social functions and that has directly affected us. The overall business slump has also affected the availability of stock in the market,” Kitab said.
Traders said that there are a large number of job losses. “Most of the traders are employing only half the workforce as compared to what they used to employ a few years back. They said in this process mostly youth have lost their livelihood.”
“I used to employ around 5 employees in my outlet now that is down to only two. The reason is that I cannot afford the salaries with low profits. There are hundreds of youth that used to get employed as salesmen and other jobs in the retail sector,” Manzoor Ahmad, a textile merchant.
“Most of them were locals who had lost their livelihood. Indirectly there are so many people linked to every business sector, when the sector gets impacted, it affects the livelihood of everyone,” he said.
The traders said that they had borrowed loans from banks and most of their accounts have turned into Non- Performing Assets (NPAs).
They said the government should come up with a way out to give them a breather. The trader body from the retails sector of Kashmir recently wrote to the union government. They apprised the government about restructuring of loans, special financial assistance and measures to give breather in NPAs among other help.
With fears of a third covid wave in September looming large, retailers say that without special help and breathers from the government, they cannot revive their businesses.