Retailers also lament that they were not given any concession or waivers during the lockdown

Retail outlets at Chennai Metro Rail stations that reopened after the lockdown was lifted are witnessing lean business and have indicated that it would take a few months to get back to normalcy.

A few brands who operate out of Metro stations are yet to open their shops and are waiting for the number of commuters to increase. Retailers here also lamented that they were not given any concession or waivers during the lockdown.

In Chennai Metro Rail’s network of 45 km dotting 32 stations in the city, several retail outlets and restaurants including Chai Kings, Adyar Ananda Bhavan, Frankie, Dilkush and Madras Coffee House had sprung up in the past few years. As the number of people using Chennai Metro grew and reached an average of about 1.15 lakh a day, business did look up for quite a few of them, they said. All this came to a grinding halt in the last week of March owing to COVID-19 lockdown.

According to officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), as the services restarted, they have permitted these restaurants and retail outlets to function. “But they have to strictly ensure there is physical distancing and other safety measures are followed. When we are practising such norms inside trains and stations, naturally it will apply to these outlets as well,” an official said. While most of the outlets have become functional, a few more are yet to open waiting for the ridership to get better, sources said.

K.T. Srinivasa Raja, managing director of Adyar Ananda Bhavan Sweets India Pvt. Ltd. that owns the A2B chain of hotels, said that business at metro stations have slightly improved when compared to a week ago. “We have opened all our outlets attached to metro stations. Apart from metro commuters we have other people walking in here. So our business has reached 50% of pre-covid levels,” he said.

Another retailer who opened their business here beginning this year said that they are hardly making a few hundreds post lockdown. “We will wait for another week and if footfalls don’t increase we will have to close our premises temporarily. Else I would have to shell out on electricity and other costs,” the retailer said.

The founder of a co-working space at the metro station said that they have re-worked their pricing to attract more walk-ins. Jahabar Sadique, CEO of Chai Kings, said that all their outlets were operational and business has reached 40-50% of pre-covid levels. “Our Thirumangalam and Airport outlets are doing well as non metro commuters are also coming in,” he said.

Most retailers said that people have reduced the time they spend at retail outlets. “They want to get onto the train and leave. They are not standing around anymore,” said another food outlet owner, who is yet to reopen his shops. He said that metro could have given some sort of concessions for retailers here. “We need to pay rent, electricity and other costs. With no footfalls it does not make business sense,” he said. Retailers here said that it would take another 3-6 months for their businesses to revive back to pre-covid levels.

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