Diwali business slows down

Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 07:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: Diwali, which heralds a shopping spree, has turned out to be a lacklustre affair this year. While traders blame the drive against illegal shops for this, customers feel it is the fear of terror that is keeping people away from markets. In one shopping complex after another in the national capital, traders are complaining about fewer customers, resulting in lower volumes of business. But there are different accounts why this is happening. The demolition and sealing of illegal shops by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) since April has proved to be disastrous for business, say traders. "Traders in Delhi have been suffering for over 10 months due to the sealing. On an average day by this time of the year there used to be almost 2 billion worth of business. This year it has dropped to 900 million," Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders Association, told IANS. A furious Khandelwal is calling it a "Black Diwali". Diwali shopping is usually synonymous with the sale and purchases of jewellery. Hindus believe that jewellery bought during Diwali brings in wealth and prosperity to households. This year the jewellery market is reporting a severe setback. Vijay Khanna, president of the Karol Bagh Jewellers Association, says stiff competition from private players like Tata's Tanishq and D'Damas is also eating into their business. "Compared to last year, only 15-20 percent of business is happening and that too with zilch profit," Khanna complained. "During Diwali people generally tend to buy gold coins. People would buy them in bulk. But people are not ready to shell out so much money in a shop, more so when they do not know if the gold is legal or illegal. So where do we go?" asked Khanna. Even traders not affected by the sealing drive are also facing a slump. Says S.K. Grover of AB Electronics, a home appliances shop in south Delhi: "We have not at all been affected by the sealing drive, but we are experiencing a slump in Diwali business. "People are not really turning up in huge numbers. More than anything else I believe it's the fear of terrorist attacks. Yes, the sealing has affected supply of goods but the fear of terror plays a bigger role," Grover said. Agrees Tina Rawla, a professional chartered accountant: "Diwali business is definitely tepid this year. It is because of the fear of bombs, specially after last year's incidents." She was referring to the two powerful bomb explosions ahead of Diwali in the Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj markets last year that left some 70 people dead and several injured. "In fact I see even less of firecrackers in the market," added Rawla. The mood at the big retail shopping malls is, however, upbeat. They are not only experiencing a boom in business but also an increase in footfalls. "The business may be down for small and medium entrepreneurs and traders, not for us. We are having a good business like last year and we are not experiencing any problems," said Nalini Gupta, chief executive of Genesis Colors Pvt Ltd that promotes the Satya Paul brand, a renowned designer label of garments. Sharing the opinion was Abhijit Das, head of Ansal Plaza Mall Management Company: "Too much hype around the demolition drive has helped us to attract more and more customers to malls. People who were earlier comfortable with shopping in narrow streets are now understanding the essence of shopping in malls." Adding that the Ansal Plaza malls were experiencing 9-10 percent incremental increase in their business, Das claimed: "The average footfalls across all our malls have increased to 15-20 percent this year." Be it Diwali or Id, the shopping scenario is experiencing a paradigm shift. "With the coming in of such huge malls and cheap Chinese goods, I wonder how long will we be able to carry on," Khandelwal said. M.L. Anand, president of Sadar Bazar Trade Association, said: "Ours is a wholesale market; shop owners of various colonies of Delhi buy good from us. Small and medium businesses like ours will soon perish." Many traders, blaming the authorities for poor pre-Diwali business, have decided not to light up their shops or exchange gifts in this festive season.
Source: IANS
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