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Retailers make merry

business Updated: Dec 24, 2007 22:33 IST
Highlight Story

Mistletoe, holly leaves, buntings and cherubic cut-outs of Santa welcome you. Christmas trees replete with baubles, fairy lights and attractively wrapped gift packets at the bottom add to the festive cheer, with your uniformed shopping assistants adding a dash of colour as they don Santa hats while they help you pick that outfit which is just right for you or suggest the best cake or wine for that Christmas party you plan to throw.

If you thought this was a typical Christmas shopping scene from the West, you are in for a surprise. Walk down the small stores in your neighbourhood or enter a mall or supermarket in your area and in all likelihood it is these scenes that you would come away with. Christmas shopping in India has undergone a change. And how!

While Diwali still remains by far the biggest season for gifting, Christmas is catching up.

Mumbai has yet to see a White Christmas but retailers, big and small, this year are making sure that they see a lot of green as special Christmas offers and products hold their place of pride on store shelves.

Mumbai-based Hypercity is sporting not only the Christmassy look but has also got products such as Christmas pudding, Dundee cakes, fine wines, fruit cakes, nuts and chocolates on display at its store apart from the usual decorative items

Ashutosh Chakradeo, Business Head, General Merchandise, Hypercity says increased Indian travels to the West is changing the local market.

“With a lot of expats and NRIs coming into the country and a number of Indians travelling abroad too, the idea of celebrating Christmas the way its celebrated in the West is gaining momentum.”

In fact, with consumers lapping up goodies, Hypercity is looking at a growth of about 42 per cent, over the same time last year, this Christmas.

Even budget stores such as Big Bazaar, which cater to the mid-segment customer, expect a 30 per cent sales growth by the end of this year as the shopping frenzy during Christmas seeps through to the masses. “We have witnessed a rise in year-end shopping compared to the past couple of years, and this, along with some exciting offers where we give away free gifts—for example a pair of jeans on the purchase of a pair of socks—has the customers coming to the store for more shopping,” says a Big Bazaar spokesperson. The store may keep its doors open until midnight during the festival.

“Westside, in a way has been a pioneer as far as celebrating Christmas is concerned. We have been celebrating this festival with our customers since the store’s inception and have a host of activities such as interaction with Santa and games and activities for children,” says Neeti Chopra,

Marketing head, Trent which is the holding company for Westside and Star Bazaar.

With the party season just kicking-off, it’s eveningwear that’s most in demand during Christmas. “The offtake in evening wear sees a sudden spurt during this festival which is celebrated with more gusto in smaller cities than the metros,” says Chopra.

Small articles, food and clothes may be the biggest draw this season but that hasn’t stopped retailers such as the East India Company Home in Mumbai to launch their festive home décor collection, consisting of designer crockery and pewters, just before Christmas.

“We’ve got a range that is quite upmarket with designer crystal, linen and pewter being lapped up by our customers,” says Anurag Kanoria, owner of East India Company – Home adding that they have seen almost thrice the number of customers coming in for festive shopping this year.

Gifting too is gaining momentum this Christmas. “While Diwali is all about giving gifts to near and dear ones, Christmas in India is all about giving gifts to children. As a result we have seen a rise in sales of pre-teen and kids merchandise,” says Chakradeo.

Retailers such as Archies, E-zone and E-bazaar too have introduced gifting packages for corporates this season.

Pramod Arora, joint managing director of Archies says: “Overall, the sales at our stores are spiked by 50 to 60 per cent in the month of December. The collective sales of our Christmas and New Year season (December sales) should come to Rs 4 crore from our 95 own stores. This apart, an equal revenue is expected to be earned through other multi-brand outlets during the festive season.”

The contribution break-up from cards and gifts is in the ratio of 30:70.”