Diwali is just a fortnight away, but the city’s traditional shopping haunts known for their Diwali offerings lack the usual festive buzz this year.
Shopkeepers at Bhuleshwar, Crawford Market and Mangaldas Market collectively maintain that sales have seen a 30% dip compared to the same time last year.
Sensing the mood, JJ Silk, a 20-year-old dress material shop at Mangaldas Market, which otherwise sells fabrics at a fixed rate, has made an exception this year. To catch up on lost business, it is trying to retain customers by compromising on price. “After low sales during Ganesha Chaturthi, Navratri and Dussehra, we were hoping to recover during Diwali,” said shop owner Hansraj Ashar, 73. “But that has not happened yet.”
In August, inflation peaked to 9%. In September, petrol prices went up to Rs71 per litre, subsequently hiking prices of essential commodities. With expenses soaring, the middle class seems to have decided to go easy on the shopping. Kalyan resident Pushpa Chauhan has postponed her plans to buy a new refrigerator for her house. “My grocery bill has shot up from Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 in the last month itself,” said the 32-year-old.
However, unlike street-side shops, malls and stores dealing in high-value goods have not been affected as much. “Between Onam and Pujo, we had a good window to gauge the mood. We have had a good response so far and shoppers are spending across categories. Big ticket purchases, though, might get affected,” said a spokesperson for the Future Group. “Consumer durables haven’t been affected much. So far this season, we have seen a 25% growth year-on-year surpassing our internal targets,” said Yasho V Verma, COO, LG India. Ravinder Zutshi, deputy-managing director, Samsung India also reported a healthy demand for electronics over the last week. “The consumer response after the ‘shradh’ has particularly been encouraging. We are stocked up quite good, but looking at the trend over the last week, then there is a possibility that high demand might lead to shortage of LCD televisions,” he said.
Explaining the disparity in sales between the organised and unorganised retail sector, DS Rawat, secretary general of The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), said 40% buyers during this season are street shoppers, who were affected most by price rise. “Of the rest, 30% are buying bare essentials such as clothes and utensils,” said Rawat. “The remaining 30% are the ones splurging at malls, keeping sales figures in tact.”