A wave that wiped out their livelihood

Pushed to the brink by rising overheads, many have closed their businesses

More and more shops are displaying the board “for sale”, “to-let” boards during the second wave of COVID 19 as the small-time traders seem to be giving up hope on their business.

Many appear to have wilted under the burden of paying the rent and statutory benefits like ESI and provident fund to their employees, besides other overheads.

“There seemed to be a little space for sustenance until we were permitted to keep our shops open for a few hours in a day. The complete lockdown has broken our back,” said Selvaraj, a trader in hardware in Ariyamangalam in Tiruchi. “We have exhausted all means, including pledging of jewellery for remaining afloat so far. All doors are now shut for us,” said Sahayam, a trader in electrical and electronics goods.

A number of two-wheeler and four-wheeler showrooms in the city have delayed payment of salaries, a manager of one such showroom said requesting anonymity. Customers in the private sector, who have availed the option of bank loan for hire purchase, have been finding it tough to pay instalments because of salary cuts and joblessness, he said.

“The going has indeed become tough for many. The rent in a number of new shopping complexes is being levied on square foot basis. For grocery outlets, pharmacies, and vegetable/fruit shops, the business has taken a severe beating for months together,” Tamilselvan, zonal president of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu said. The likelihood for the financially-battered traders to restart their livelihood even after the lockdown is lifted seems bleak, Mr. Tamilselvan said.

The hardship is manageable for those who operate from the shopping complexes owned by local bodies and temples. “Private landlords have not been lenient enough during the crisis situation. They continue to charge the same rent,” said A. Muthaiya, president of Karaikal Chamber of Commerce.

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