Banarsi saree trade loses sheen, pins hope on festive season
Hope and despair co-exist in the narrow lanes of Bunkar Colony in Varanasi.
The Banarsi saree trade is down, and wholesalers and retailers, as well as weavers, are feeling the pinch but they say that business is likely to improve when the festive season begins in September-end.
Irfan Babu, a young wholesaler, says, “There is a slowdown in the whole market. The sale of Banarsi sarees has dipped because of a sluggish economy. Earlier, 10 retailers used to place orders for sarees daily. Now, only three to five place orders.”
Irfan says it is tough for wholesalers to meet their expenses in the current scenario.
Similarly, Rajan Bahal of Banarsi Vastra Udyog Association says, “The slowdown has resulted in up to 30% fall in the sale of Banarsi sarees and stoles.”
At the same time, he says the wholesalers have high hopes from the festive season starting in the last week of September. That is why, barring a few, most of the wholesalers have not cancelled the orders placed with the weavers, he says.
Mukund Agarwal, former president of the Eastern UP Exporters’ Association, says while some wholesalers recorded 20% decline in sale, others recorded a 30% fall.
He is quick to add, “The trade will be very good in the upcoming festive season.” There is hardly any impact on the export of Banarsi sarees, he clarifies.
He also says wholesalers with innovative ideas, like connecting with e-commerce platforms, are doing good business even in this sluggish phase.
Like Irfan Babu, many other traders are upset with the sluggish phase. As soon as sale drops, retailers avoid placing orders, says a retailer who refuses to be named. After implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, no retailer stacks sarees in bulk, he says.
Although master weaver Azim Babu is concerned, he says the sluggish trend will end with the festive season.
Rajiv Agarwal, a former bank officer, dubs the slowdown a temporary phase that will come to an end in the next few months. “There is no need to panic,” he says.