Sri Lanka: Time to Policy Overhaul to Ensure Retail Industry’s Future

Sri Lanka has been chosen as the destination for the largest bi-annual FAPRA event, the Asia Pacific Retail Conference and Exhibition 2024.

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Small businesses are key to Sri Lanka’s economy. [Photo: ADB]

The Sri Lanka Retail Forum (SLRF) 2023 conducted by the Sri Lanka Retailers Association (SLRA) on 1st March, 2023, will address many of the pressing challenges currently faced by the industry, and explore proven strategies and vital avenues to explore to ensure stability and sustainability for the industry, SLRA President Murali Prakash stated.

Against a backdrop of economic turbulence, Mr. Prakash called for urgent regulatory and policy overhauls to support the industry in the current context, which would also provide more visibility on overall strategy at a macro level. ‘Such a framework which facilitates enhanced access to finance, focuses on entrepreneurship and support, and infrastructure and technology building efforts are key factors for retail where a policy framework can be built to facilitate a robust retail that can aid in the country’s growth. In doing so the legal framework associated with including various acts such as consumer protection to shop and office, can be revisited’, he said. With indirect taxes and related costs directly impacting the industry, he called for better understanding and whetting of such taxes with a view to a gradual easing out, citing their detrimental impact on the industry.

Mr. Prakash also stressed the need for speedier action on SOEs and related entities to ensure that the inefficiencies of these organisations do not spill over and impact the retail industry and business at large, negatively.

With higher costs and volume challenges putting pressure on margins and cash flows, while inflation and added taxes causing alterations in consumer spending, along with dollar supply and related supply chain issues, he emphasized that ‘re-enacting the supply chain to be leaner, meaner, and perhaps more locally focused, could be one strategy to leverage for cost advantages in selected areas. New market spaces both locally and on the export front due to changing customer perceptions and a greater focus on dollar earnings, technology-driven future-centric applications for efficiency, speed and to fulfil the aspirations of younger consumer segments’, are among other strategies the industry now needs to explore and leverage, he pointed out.

In this regard, the SLRF 2023 will feature an impressive line-up of public and private sector policymakers and industry veterans and experts, offering a timely platform to address the current challenges, and explore avenues for stability and sustainable growth, Mr. Prakash said.

Expanding on the benefits of collaborative effort that organisations such as the SLRA, an approved association of the premier business chamber of the country, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, bring to the industry, he said that the SLRA as the ‘apex body of organized retail in Sri Lanka has a collective strength of over 5000 retail outlets across the country, catering to over 250 million footfalls a year’. SLRA is a member of the Federation of Asia Pacific Retailers Association (FAPRA), a collective body of 20 nations across the region including highly developed retail nations such as Japan, China, and Korea, which facilitate opportunities for greater collaboration in areas such as knowledge sharing and investments to technology and other retail platforms.

Through this membership, Sri Lanka has been chosen as the destination for the largest bi-annual FAPRA event, the Asia Pacific Retail Conference and Exhibition 2024. Mr. Prakash added that as the retail and tourism industries are interwoven, the growth of the retail industry will complement ongoing efforts to boost tourism.

– Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

SLG Syndication

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