Festive shopping has taken off with a vengeance

The pandemic brought traditional markets to a halt. After two years of complete ennui, they are recovering their old charm, with customers turning up in large number for a shopping spree

QUITE A MELEE: Street full of customers on a Saturday evening (All photos: Rohan Chauhan)

After spending the previous two years at home, Delhiites are now celebrating festivals on a large scale, just as they did before the pandemic. Despite the fact that Covid is still lurking around the corner, the city’s residents seemed to be in a festive mood on the eve of Navaratri and Dussehra.

With Diwali shopping a definite item on the calendar for the next two weeks, it seems like people in Delhi are going on a revenge shopping spree against the Covid virus.

The phrase ‘revenge shopping’ is defined as “excessive spending after a period of having little opportunity to spend.” Either it’s a celebration of freedom or an activity to get over the frustration.

During this season, new clothes for the festivities and home décor items are the main shopping attractions. Patriot learns how much Delhi-ites enjoy shopping during the holidays and how much relief it is bringing to shopkeepers after a gap of two years.

ON THE PROWL: Vendors rest awhile before going on
their rounds

Changing attitudes

Ramesh Kumar, a merchant at Sadar Bazaar, speaks to Patriot about the shifting consumer mindset. He points out that during the lockdown, consumers had ample time to find out what is stocked in their closets, and now don’t want to waste money. Shoppers are no longer impulsive and have become circumspect, buying only what is strictly necessary, he claims.

“We lost the majority of our customers in the last two years,” says Kumar. “Given how the markets have developed even after the restrictions were lifted, it is naive of us to believe that we will regain our business.”

“People are hesitant to visit the markets now, which wasn’t the case earlier. However, some people continue to come here to shop because they can find goods in large quantities for very reasonable prices”.

Inflation has affected not only shoppers but also shopkeepers. “We also have to purchase stocks at a higher rate, which is reflected in the cost of our products. But the user has memories of purchasing items at extremely low rates in our markets. Hume bhi to apna ghar chalana hai hum apni jeb se thodi na denge (We can’t offer such prices because we too have to make a livelihood).”

Still, he concedes, people are spending money to celebrate Dussehra, Diwali and Navratri because they are so linked to religion and there are plenty of holidays to go out and indulge.

Geeti Chandra, a housewife shopping at Sadar Bazaar for Navratri, expressed her joy at finally being able to conduct the ritual of feeding pre-adolescent girls, as is done by most devotees in this part of the country.
Asked how she is managing with prices so high, she says, “Inflation will always be there, but Navratri and Diwali come once a year, so that feeling and excitement is above anything else. We manage by saving money – every middle class person does that and there are no regrets.”

Hoping for the best

There were quite a few customers present at Vishal Kumar’s decorative lights shop at Chandni Chowk at 5 in the evening, when the market bustles with shoppers. Fairy lights can be purchased there for as little as Rs 40 per string to beautify interiors and balconies.

When questioned about the state of the market and his business, he found the time to say, “This year we’ve been lucky that all the limitations are gone and there’s a fair platform for hard-working people like us.”
Since the start of Navaratri, there have been a lot more people visiting the markets, albeit not to the same extent as before the pandemic.

GOOD GOING: Customers at Vishal Kumar’s shop

Additionally, he claims that as the celebrations gain momentum, more people from all over Delhi and Ghaziabad will come here to shop. Up until this point, the majority of visitors have been shop owners who purchase goods in bulk, but after Dussehra, the average working class person will also come in significant numbers.

A fact that works in the shopkeepers’ favour is that people are getting the chance to celebrate festivals out in the open after a very long time, and they’re happy with the opportunity to spend wholeheartedly, regardless of whether prices have increased by two rupees or 100. He continues, “We still have a month left and there is a lot of hustle-bustle in the market. We are praying that this time our festivals will also be celebrated with good profits.”

Marriage season

President of Chandni Chowk’s Sarva Vyapar Mandal Sanjay Bhargava agrees that business is looking up. As he puts it,”We are hopeful that shopkeepers will end this festive season on a happy note and the upcoming marriage season will end the setbacks that we faced. The footfalls are good but the major benefits these markets and small businesses will get is from the wedding season which also starts from the festive season. It’s going well, and wedding lehenga shops are getting good profits,” he says.

Jameel, who owns a small shop of decorative items in Chandni Chowk, tells Patriot that business has been good so far, especially in contrast to the last two years. “We have had this shop for the last seven years. The last three years have been the most traumatic. The two years at home, particularly in the later part of the lockdown, caused people to migrate more into online shopping, which has certainly damaged our company, but not entirely,” says Jameel.
He continues, “Almost everything nowadays is available online with amazing offers and discounts, so coming to the bazaar and going through all this melee is not something people would generally prefer.”

ALL SET: Jameel and his brother expect a rush of customers

Still, “We have our standard set of shoppers, primarily middle-aged people and housewives, who come to our shops in good numbers.” He feels that Chandni Chowk is still not performing to its full potential but the number of clients would be greatest between Dussehra and Diwali.

 

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