Plunging sales spell gloom for shopkeepers this Diwali

October 25th, 2008 - 11:32 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) Normally, Diwali spells boom time for shopkeepers here. They work overtime tending to enthusiastic shoppers and their wares fly off the shelves. This time, the situation is completely different.Hardly three days away from one of India’s grandest festivals, shopkeepers say sales have dived - sometimes by as much as 40 percent - with many admitting they just don’t seem to know how to boost sales.

Ashok Randhawa, who owns a linen and clothes shop in the Sarojini Nagar market, said his sales, which otherwise rise during the days before any festival and especially Diwali, have plummeted by a good 30-40 percent.

“Sarojini Nagar market used to throb with people - families, youngsters and tourists. However, ever since the blast in 2005, a shadow seems to have befallen the market. People now refuse to venture here in the evenings, during weekends and before festivals, basically whenever there is a possibility of a big crowd, and this has affected our sales,” Randhawa told IANS.

“The recent blasts in the city last month, both of which happened on Saturdays, have added to the fear,” he said.

Ram Prasad, another shopkeeper who sells children’s clothes and toys in the busy Karol Bagh market, similarly said his Diwali sales have been low, unlike in any other year. He too says sales have plunged by around 30 percent.

“Generally, people flock to the market before festivals. But this time it has been different. People are generally avoiding the crowds, therefore the surging mass that you normally see before Diwali in every market adding to the festive spirit is simply missing.

“One of the blasts on September 13, the one which affected the maximum number of people, was in Karol Bagh. That has scarred the market. Some are also saying that because of the economic meltdown people are more careful to spend sensibly. However, for the general public, I guess it’s more of the first reason,” Prasad said.

A heightened security in popular market areas such as Janpath and Sarojini Nagar ahead of the festival, according to shopkeepers, has also heightened the fear among shoppers.

“Of course we need security. But the sight of so many uniformed men somehow reminds the shoppers that they are vulnerable,” Ashok Lal, who works in a card shop near Janpath said.

Sarojini Nagar’s Randhawa rued that the licence to sell fire crackers, which is so much a part of the festivities of Diwali, is not being given to the shopkeepers in his market.

“After the 2005 blast, we have not got licence to sell firecrackers. The other items which we get in bulk about two months before a festival like Diwali are also not selling well,” he said.

“At such a rate, I guess we just have to put up all these things for sale at discounts.”

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