Diwali no longer ‘the shopping period’

Although there is a considerable shift in the spending patterns, what’s most notable is that shopping has gone from an annual to a whenever-one-feels-like event

In India, Diwali season (Oct-December) was the period that once witnessed crowds rushing to the textile shops to buy clothes and accessories that would keep them going till the next Diwali. The shopping done during this period many-a-time included shopping for birthdays and other festivals in the year too.

However, this has not been the case for the past five-six years, going by a number of news reports and surveys conducted by websites and youngsters’ personal accounts. A major chunk of the urban population that has replaced clothes and accessories with mobiles; ipads; and other electronic gadgets, does not wait for the October-December shopping period anymore.

The shopping patterns have differed within the five year period as well.

According to an online survey conducted by cashkaro.com in 2013 with over 1000 of its members as participants, men were 10% more likely to buy mobiles and electronics online and during the Diwali season men and women between the ages 25 and 40 spent about 20% more than those under 25 years of age. The top reasons given by these participants, for shopping online instead of going to the markets were: the lower prices on products and the convenience online shopping offers as opposed to the exhausting shopping experience in a crowded market. One group felt there was a greater variety available online than in the markets. However, the entire lot invariably preferred to buy the crackers and sweets in the traditional market.

An article carried by livemint.com after Diwali in 2015 based on the findings of a study made by Pine Labs very clearly stated: “Weekends, not Diwali, is when consumers spend”. Although the article discussed the weekend before Diwali, it did claim “Consumer spending patterns are indeed changing and Indians are no longer waiting through the year to shop during a festival even if it is as engaging as Diwali.”

“I don’t allocate money for Diwali separately. I just buy when I feel I need clothes. As Diwali is a festival it’s our tradition to buy so I buy now too. Previously, I used to wait for Diwali but once I started to earn I stopped to wait for a time to purchase. I just like the discounts and buy if it’s needed”, said Sathya Narayanan, Correspondent, The Hindu Downtown.

Sanjana R, Final Year B.Sc. Chemistry student, Ethiraj College for Women, said, “I don’t do the shopping for Diwali in October-November. I usually go for shopping in summer and when I do I buy one or two dresses for Diwali”, she said

The excitement and the rush to buy new clothes and to stock up on crackers and even compete with others in terms of the sound and the pollution is no longer palpable among the youth.

The declining interest became very apparent in the recent years.

Several features in the media reported on this decline of interest in crackers. Reports on the fall in cracker sales in states including Telangana, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu were also carried by newspapers this year.

“I stopped buying crackers six years ago. I lost interest and crackers have also become very expensive”, said Sanjana

Many have also replaced crackers and clothes with electronic gadgets.

On this shift, she said, one of her friends bought herself a laptop instead of clothes and crackers this year.

This could be because of a large number of factors including the vanishing of the Diwali bonus concept, the rise of online platforms like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal.

Aishwarya R, Programmer Analyst, Cognizant, said that people in the IT sector didn’t usually get bonuses during the Diwali season and that they got them during the financial year-end.

“I time my shopping on the basis of how the offers and my requirement come together. As and when that happens and the deal fits my budget, I get my shopping done”, she said

She added she did not buy crackers this year as she found them expensive.

She felt, though, it was ‘laziness’ and/or ‘a modern lifestyle’ more than environmental concerns that keep people from spending on crackers these days.

There were exceptions with regard to crackers as well.

Ananyaa Desikan, Television journalism student, ACJ said “I do care about the environment. But, I can never stop bursting crackers for Diwali, ever. I bought crackers for around ₹7000 this year too”

“I always allocate money for Diwali shopping- clothes, crackers and sweets”, said another journalism student, Harini Prasad, ACJ. She said she still stuck to traditional sweets.

Those youngsters sticking to the old shopping pattern did so primarily because of the insistence of elders and parents or in order to keep the traditions alive.

“My Diwali shopping trends haven’t changed yet. I stick to clothes and sweets. I did buy crackers and clothing this year. And perhaps will do it every year as it is our tradition to buy them,” said Sathya Narayanan

Even middle-aged people with families are finding the Diwali shopping pressurising and seem to be doing so for tradition’s sake. Although P K Raman, a Southern Railways employee, spent ₹7500, ₹3000 on clothes and crackers respectively and almost ₹1500 on sweets, he did not see the point as shopping was no longer an annual thing. He said the money spent has increased by 15% when compared to last year and that this was because things have become costlier now.

“When Diwali was once in a year occasion, we were having expectations and welcomed the festival with great happiness. Now sweets and dresses are purchased casually, without any reasons or occasion. People are getting exhausted physically and financially when they go for Diwali shopping. Pressure overtakes pleasure.”

While people do buy electronics and other necessities online, some are still apprehensive of the quality of the clothing they’re likely to get.

“You never know about the quality of the material when buying clothes online. There is more variety in the market than we get to see on the websites”, said Aishwarya

“I once bought clothing from Snapdeal and was not very satisfied with the material and had to return it. I prefer going to a textile shop any day”, agreed Nivedhitha I, an MA English student, Ethiraj College for Women.

Shops in T.Nagar, the prime shopping area in the city, have been witnessing reduced footfalls for the last few years. However, staff at Sundari Silks said the shop continued to have loyal customers who visited every year to buy sarees for Diwali and Pongal as a mandate. Shah’s electronics claimed to have sold a good number of LEDs and consumer durables during the three-day period in which they had offers on all electronics. They said people between 30 and 40 made up the whole lot of customers in the three days.

Strangely, though, students staying away from their home state and those abroad seemed to celebrate Diwali in a traditional manner.

B Y Hari Prakash, Graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin said, “There were 1-2 Diwali celebrations and dinners organised by various Indian student and working professionals’ organisations. There was an event last Thursday when we had fireworks. It got postponed due to rains”

He added that the celebrations were grand at his previous alma mater IIT Madras as well.

Students of Asian College of Journalism also had their independent celebrations with fireworks this year.

By and large, there has been a considerable shift in the shopping period if not much in the spending patterns.

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