Diwali is here, but where are the customers?

The festival season is round the corner but the shopkeepers in markets around Delhi are still waiting for festival shoppers. According to shopkeepers, customers don’t have the money to splurge

NH Photo
NH Photo
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Zaheeb Ajmal

The festival season is round the corner but the shopkeepers in markets around Delhi are still waiting for festival shoppers. According to shopkeepers, customers don’t have the money to splurge on buying new items.

It’s not the first time that the markets are down. The first blow came during demonetisation in 2016 and the second after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government. Some of the shopkeepers in Delhi have stated that they have to pay more tax than what they used to pay earlier and this has reduced their earnings.

Ramesh Chaudhary, who runs a saree shop in Kalkaji has to usually make special arrangements to handle the inflow of customers, his looking to alternative options to keep his business afloat. “The market during the festive season has been down for last few years; it was the same last year. First it was demonetisation and then came the GST, it has totally taken us by surprise. I thought the business will recover in six months but now its almost two years and the situation has gone worse. I think I will look for something else otherwise how will I feed my family. I am the only bread earner.”

“The Jewellery market is dull. I have never seen such steep downfall ever in the market. People are invisible from the shops. GST has complicated things up for the jewellers in the business. The shopkeepers are putting up desperate sale to keep their business going,” said Vivek Jain of Delhi Jewellers Association.

Satayajit, a manager at Vijay Jewellers, is hopeful that the sales with improve in a week or so. “There is surely a dip in the market. We are hardly getting any customers. There could be two reasons for this. One the rise in price of gold and diamonds and maybe people are waiting for Dhanteras. I hope that the deserted look in the market will go away in next few days. There is not a doubt that the market is still to recover from the Goods and Service Tax but I don’t know when it will.”

Not only the shopkeepers but even the customers are feeling the heat of inflation. Ramesh Gupta who works in a private IT firm said, “Prices for everything is on high. I don’t know what the government is doing. We have to think 10 times before spending on anything”

Babu, a jeans seller on Tank road, said he had never seen such poor sales in the last 17 years. “Such poor sales have never happened ever since I have been in business. People are either too cautious in spending money or don’t want to spend the money.”

A footwear shop owner, Naresh Gupta, is worried if he will earn what he has invested during the festive season. “As it was the festive season, I have invested a lot of money but the response in the market has been dull. This was never the situation until two years ago. Shopkeepers wait a whole year for this festive season. I am afraid if I will be able to sell enough items. I am just praying that things get better or what we will do.”

It’s not only the shopkeepers but even the customers are feeling the heat of inflation. Ramesh Gupta, who works in a private IT firm, said, “Prices of all commodities have risen. I don’t know what the government is doing. We have to think multiple times before spending on anything. Inflation is rising, but our salaries are static. What can we do.”

Shankar Singh, another employee with a private firm, is unlikely to make any new purchases this year. “There is no festive fervour as there used to be earlier. I have just come out with my family, but we have decided that we would not spend much money this year. Last year, I had lost my job. I found a job after struggling for six months and I had to take a pay cut of ₹10,000.”

With both the customers and shopkeepers sounding gloomy, there seems to be much less cheer in the markets.

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