December offers only woes to crib-makers from Palakkad selling their wares in city

The Christmas fervour is catching up in Kochi despite retailers complaining of a lack of enthusiasm on the part of customers that usually marks the festival season.

For Shaktivel and his team of crib-makers, who make their annual journey to Kochi from Puthoor in Palakkad district with lorry loads of bamboo and cane, this December offered only woes. “This year is quite dull”, he said comparing how they had fared last year.

Mr. Shaktivel and his friends are among hundreds of people, who temporarily switch to making stars, cribs and decorative items during the Christmas season. Varghese Kalathil from Neendakara is one of them, who has switched temporarily to making cribs and Christmas sets during the season.

He uses plywood and bamboo to make cribs that sell for rates ranging between Rs.250 and Rs.1,000.

Mr. Shaktivel and his friends usually make baskets for packing vegetables out of bamboo and cane throughout the year. However, the month of December usually offered some extra income from their sales in Kochi. However, he said they were selling about five to ten pieces of cribs daily against 30 to 50 they used to in the past years. The cribs cost between Rs.100 and Rs.200 a piece. But he said the customers appeared more sensitive about prices this year as they were bargaining strongly.

This was a point highlighted by an enthusiastic Christmas shopper on Broadway. Sam Thomas said that what marked the market in the run up to Christmas this year was the rock-bottom prices. Christmas stars that used to cost upwards of Rs.100 a piece was now being sold for between Rs.30 and Rs.50.

He also spoke of the continuing dominance of products from China, especially decorative LED lights. But the prices are down substantially.

One of the items that is a rage this year is the coloured lights that throw patters on walls around it once lighted. Though these lights used to cost upwards of Rs.1,500 a year ago, they are now being sold for as low as Rs.150.

The quality may be a lot worse, but the prices are down, he said. Santa Claus masks and bells are also being sold cheap and bought up in large numbers by young people, who use the masts and bells for their round of Christmas carols in their neighbourhoods. Decorative lights are being sold from Rs.30 per string of LED lamps to about Rs.1,500.

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