For retailers, there is nothing sweeter than the sound of cash registers ringing in a potentially exciting business season.

There are so-called inauspicious times, such as aadi and karkidakam in South India, and the forthcoming ‘ shraadh ’ (September 19-October 4), chaturmas and pous in North India. These are periods when most people do not make any major purchases, like a house or a car. Even weddings do not take place during these periods.

Given how consumption declines during this time, retailers try to excite consumers into opening their purse strings with attractive offers. “In the last few years, due to (promotional) campaigns, people have been buying during the ‘inauspicious period’ as it is followed by the wedding season in Kerala,” says Alukkas Varghese Joy, MD of Joyalukkas. “This year, we have seen marginally higher growth over last year.”

Nalli’s, India’s largest saree retailer, has an aadi sale every July.

Schemes galore

Ajit Joshi, Managing Director of Croma, a leading consumer durables retailer, says that during this period, a lot of finance partners and product manufacturers come up with various schemes, including low down-payment, low processing fees and attractive interest rates. “Such initiatives help us sail through this pre-festival period,” adds Joshi. This is resulting in highersales — about 20-40 per cent more than on a normal day.

Earlier, retailers used to witness bumper sales only during big festivals such as Onam, Diwali or Dasara . Now, with the industry more organised and with the entry of foreign brands, there is a huge competition to attract more customers.

The off-season sale trend, which kicked off in South India in the early 2000s, has now spread across the country. Devangshu Dutta, from marketing research firm Third Eyesight, says that earlier, festival peaks could account for 70-80 per cent of a brand’s annual sale. But in the last 10-15 years, consumers with higher discretionary incomes have tended to spread their spending round the year. Besides, the availability of multiple brands and increase in the number of stores has also improved product visibility year-round. The number of discount periods has also increased, encouraging customers to de-link their purchases from the festival period.

“It is better for retailers to have a more consistent and predictable flow of customers than managing huge peaks, which are impossible to forecast and difficult to fulfil,” says Dutta.

Some retailers do not seem to think there is a ‘season’ for sales. Future Group, which has pioneered celebrating local community festivals, believes each day is an opportunity and runs offers even on weekdays.