Future Retail Limited, India’s second-largest retailer, has suspended most of its online and offline operations as stores remained closed on Sunday after rival Reliance made an offer to buy its flagship supermarkets for missed lease payments.
Reliance Industries Limited will rename Futures stores after the company failed to pay them to Reliance, sources told Reuters on Saturday, closing most of the outlets of the popular Big Bazaar chain.
While Future has more than 1,700 outlets, all of the 200 stores Reliance will rename to Big Bazaars are the Big Bazaars, which was founded about two decades ago by Kishore Biyani, dubbed the Indian retail king for transforming the industry.
Future and Reliance did not respond to requests for comment. Future told stock exchanges on Saturday that the company is “winding down” operations.
Future’s stores across India remained closed across India as Reliance took inventory ahead of a rebrand, people familiar with the plans said.
“We are sorry to inform you that stores are currently out of operation for 2 days,” Big Bazaar told a Twitter user who complained about a closure.
Future’s e-commerce mobile app and website were also not available for online orders.
Reliance’s move becomes significant as it follows failed attempts since 2020 to close a $3.4 billion deal to acquire the retail assets of Future, whose partner Amazon.com Inc has blocked the transaction over breach of contracts to to get. Future denies any wrongdoing.
Reliance had transferred the leases of some of the stores of debt-laden Future to its name and sublet it to Future, but is now taking it over because Future has not made any payments. Reliance has offered retail workers jobs on existing terms.
“All workers, consumers and everyone in India – we are all attached to the Big Bazaar brand,” a Big Bazaar employee said on Sunday. “So you feel sad that this is happening.”
By blocking the Future-Reliance deal, Amazon has long claimed that Future violated the terms of a 2019 deal, in which the American giant invested $200 million in the Indian company. Amazon’s position has so far been supported by an arbitrator in Singapore and Indian courts.