Bengaluru

Festive shopping down, say industry observers

A variety of fresh flowers had arrived at K.R. Market on Sunday to cater to the demand for Ugadi.   | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR

For anyone who thought last year’s highly muted Ugadi was a one-off, a second wave of COVID-19 infections has ensured that yet another festival remains a sombre affair. For the vendors who cater to the demands of people during this festival, there is little cheer even though Ugadi is only a few days away.

The quantum of festive shopping in the city is down by 50% (offline) and 30% (online) as the mood in retail markets remains dull because of the ‘second wave’ of the pandemic, say industry observers.

“The reality is people always shopped more during festive seasons. However, this season has not seen normal volumes picking up. The overall mood is low and sombre as everybody has a friend or a family member who is affected by the virus,” said K. Vaitheeswaran, popularly known as the father of Indian e-commerce and also CEO of city-based AGAIN Drinks.

This year, the Ugadi season coincides with the wedding season and also Ramzan, making it one of the potentially most lucrative seasons for merchants in the city.

Sajjan Raj Mehta, a senior garment trader from Chickpet, the wholesale hub of the city, said, “Last year, we were under complete lockdown during the festival. The only saving grace this time is that we are open for business. But there has been no uptake in business volumes for the festive season, which essentially only means a washout. With restrictions on marriages as well, even that business has not picked up.”

Certain brick-and-mortar stores are offering attractive offers to attract footfall. However, retailers, in general, believe that with the second wave of infections, consumers have become more cautious about stepping out.

A senior manager with a chain of home appliances store in the city said Ugadi being the new year for the Kannada and Telugu speaking populations, many usually purchase new items during this season, causing a swell in business. “Despite a particularly hot summer beginning weeks ago, not even air cooler sales have shot up to expected levels, indicating the deep economic crisis and lack of purchasing power of people,” he said.

While there has been a general slump in business volume compared to previous years, brick and mortar businesses have been particularly hit as consumers are increasingly moving online.

Some 37% of households in Bengaluru are expected to be using e-commerce sites as their primary channel for shopping in the next six months, says Sachin Taparia of LocalCircles, a platform to gauge the pulse of the country.

To cash in on Ugadi, most e-commerce players are offering huge discounts, some up to 70% to attract traffic to their sites.

The only saving grace for the festival seems to be the prices of vegetables, fruits and flowers, which used to skyrocket. They are relatively cheaper this year, also indicating lack of demand and enthusiasm for the festival.

Second wave wipes out festive cheer

Fear, caution, and an overall dullness in sentiment due to the second wave of COVID-19 has meant that Ugadi celebrations will be low-key at best.

“No one seems to be excited about Ugadi shopping this time. We are only hoping and praying that we will have a happy Ugadi at least next year,” said Asha Micheal, an HR professional.

Bhagya Channegowda, a homemaker and resident of Vijayanagar, said, “Going out is a big deal now when COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. I have two grandchildren, aged five and one. They play with me. I can’t take a risk. So no shopping this Ugadi.”

According to Anjan Jayasinha, a communications professional who resides in Uttarahalli, gone are the days when families waited for festivals or special occasions for a shopping spree. “Now, shopping is a round-the-year activity for many people. If there wasn’t a threat of the virus, I would have loved to take my wife and sons out to shop for the experience.”

Accounting professional Santosh Nanjundaswamy from Rajarajeshwarinagar has decided not to miss his family's Ugadi fun twice in a row. He took his wife Shruti and 12-year-old daughter out for a quick shopping session on Saturday. “We didn't go out anywhere the whole of last year and were waiting to shop for Ugadi this time. So we didn’t cancel our plan. But we went out with all possible safety gear,” he said.

“It’s not a festival unless you buy new clothes. I ordered a silk sari online and my daughters too bought some stuff. As a final touch, we are shopping in Gandhi Bazaar on Sunday,” said Shantha Nataraja from Basavanagudi, who teaches computer science online.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 3:56:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/festive-shopping-down-say-industry-observers/article34296551.ece

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