The city soaked in the spirit of Deepavali on Friday as surging shoppers made their last-minute purchases on the evening of Friday.

In many places, children and youth ushered in the festival of lights bursting crackers.

It was a sea of shoppers at the city’s main commercial area around the Rockfort. Traditionally, hundreds of vendors spread their wares along Singarathope, Big Bazaar Street, the NSB Road, and Nandhi Kovil Street ahead of the Deepavali festival, attracting low-income groups who throng the area right through the night to strike a good bargain.

Roadside vendors selling clothes, trinkets, household products, and even electronic items line up around the area just a week before the festival. On the eve of Deepavali, the trade goes on right through the night.

Many low-income group families visit the bazaar on the eve of the festival. “We cater mostly to low-income group families, especially daily wage earners who get the money and time to make their purchases only at the eleventh hour. These people cannot afford to go to the big shops and we cater to their requirements,” said Rajan, a vendor selling clothes.

There are groups of youngsters who make it a point to visit the bazaar on the eve of Deepavali looking for cheap deals. “If you don’t mind the crowd and the jostling, you can strike a really good bargain. In the past, I have bought quality products, even branded shirts and jeans at low prices. It is a tradition among some of my friends to make it a point to visit the bazaar on Deepavali eve. Of course, you need to remain watchful,” said Ashok, a college student of Anna Nagar.

He and most of his friends have already made their Deepavali purchase. “Every year we spend more than five hours on Deepavali eve at the bazaar. This is real fun and you can soak in the festive spirit even while keeping an eye for a smart buy,” he said.

Apart from the city’s main bazaar, sweet stalls and cracker shops drew heavy crowds across the city. Given the sharp increase in the price of crackers, said to be around 25 per cent over the previous year, several traders reported dull sales and felt that people seemed to have cut down on their spending. “These days, you hardly get a bagful of crackers even on shelling out Rs. 3,000. I had to tell my children to restrict the purchase as the price of crackers is really going out of our budget,” said Chithra, a housewife.

The Central and Chathram Bus Stands in the city witnessed milling crowds. The Central bus stand was teeming with people, most of them heading for southern districts, while buses operating from the Chathram Bus Stand were packed with commuters returning home after festival shopping.