Anuj Kumar, 21, sits in Noida sector-18 market’s Adidas retail outlet, eagerly waiting for customers to drop in and pick jerseys of their favourite teams.
But the response has been lacklustre despite the Football World Cup — the world’s most-watched sporting extravaganza — getting underway this week.
Kumar, who has been working here over the past two years, feels the demand has been particularly low this year.
“We typically receive goods from our warehouses depending on demand, but with the World Cup just getting started, there hasn’t been much of a hurry this year,” says Kumar.
“People used to shop ahead of time for their favourite teams, with the bulk of them supporting Brazil, followed by Argentina and Portugal due to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo [respectively]. The CR-7 (Ronaldo) and the No. 10 jersey (Messi) were the most sought-after T-shirts,” explains Kumar.
A major, quadrennial sports event like the Football World Cup is an opportunity for vendors and sports goods companies to clock merchandise sales.
But it appears the timing of the tournament has come as a hurdle for businesses in the National capital Region (NCR).
The previous editions of the Football World Cup were held in the summer months and in financially better times prior to Covid-19.
“One of the biggest reasons for poor sales is that the World Cup is being hosted in winter for the first time, which has reduced the enthusiasm of owning a football shirt. Fans know that you won’t be able to wear it for the next two months,” says Kumar who also feels that Noida has a lesser number of football enthusiasts than other places.
Unlike Noida, Lajpat Nagar is located in the heart of the Capital and is known for a wide range of items at reasonable prices.
Even at four o’clock in the evening of a working day, the venue is packed with people, with hardly enough room to walk.
The place is abuzz with a variety of goods being sold out of stalls. However, there are not many stalls selling Football World Cup merchandise.
Deepak Tyagi, a stall owner, explained the reason behind the low demand.
“This year’s market for football items has been slow. There are certain fans and clubs who place big orders, but they are few and far between. It’s not just the jerseys. There are keychains, posters and a variety of other items that are all struggling to find purchasers.”
Tyagi continues, “We are getting products at a higher price and selling them accordingly because of post-Covid economic crisis and the ongoing inflation, but the customers don’t understand this. They come to our shops with a mindset that they’ll get everything according to their plans. They think they can bargain a lot. However, it is not possible because the stuff being sent to us is already expensive leaving no room for us to give concessions. So, people are visiting but not buying.”
The market at Majnu ka Tila, which is famous for jackets, shoes and jerseys, however saw a better footfall of customers wanting to buy football jerseys and other accessories.
Asim Khan, who tends to a stall, is busy dealing with customers who are looking for football gear.
“So far one customer today has already made purchases of around Rs 5000 in the morning. It included flags, t-shirts and keychains,” explains Khan.
“I’m selling a pair of jersey and shorts for approximately Rs 1200 and just the T-shirts for around Rs 900, which is considerably less than past years. But it’s all fine as I am in the process of clearing out the stock that I’ve stored up,” he adds.
“I’ve stocked up on roughly 1200 jerseys in all sizes and am now selling 15 jerseys each day, which is good given the games only started two weeks ago. As the tournament progresses, more orders will come in, especially in bulk volumes,” explains Khan.
When asked if he expects his entire stock to be brought this season, Khan responded, “These jerseys are relevant only until a few days. Once [harsh] winter strikes, they’re probably going to become irrelevant, and as far as the response I’ve seen in the last two weeks, it’s difficult to say that I’ll be able to clear my stock.”
Khan is even willing to lower the price of the jerseys to ensure that the stock is sold out.
“But in that case (if the sales over the next few days is low), I’ll have to lower the price of the jerseys, as I’ve done before. The price will be reduced to Rs 900 for a pair of jersey and shorts and Rs 600 only for the jerseys. This aids in the clearance of stock. Also, football fan groups may occasionally visit these wholesale markets in quest of bulk purchases at low costs, which substantially benefits our business. Although there hasn’t been a single such order, but as shopkeepers, we are always optimistic that the business will thrive in the upcoming days,” he concludes.
Among the buyers at Khan’s stall is a young man, Hrithik. “I am here for the Argentina jerseys which my friends and I will wear. We are all big Messi supporters and since this may be his last World Cup, we want to watch and support him.”
The FIFA World Cup 2022 is being held in Qatar from November 20 to December 18. The matches are being played in eight world-class stadia built newly or rebuilt extensively. Thirty-two teams are competing for the most coveted prize in world football, with the final set for December 18 at the Lusail stadium, the largest of the eight venues hosting the World Cup.
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