Setting ‘store’ by the Christmas cheer

Gitanjali Diwakar | Updated on December 20, 2018 Published on December 20, 2018

Sale of Christmas decorations at Evergreen Christmas Centre, Chennai. File Photo   -  The Hindu

Situated along the back of the Cooum River is a tiny shack that springs to life during Christmas.

With a charming display of Christmas balls, Santa caps and reindeer, the Evergreen Christmas Centre on Ethiraj Salai in Chennai is the place to be for anyone who wants to sign off the year in style.

A labour of love of P S Anthony, the shop has been around for over 25 years and has spread its wings since its modest start: it now has branches not only in Chennai, but also in Mumbai and Bengaluru. While Anthony looks after the Mumbai and Bengaluru centres, the main centre in Chennai is managed by his wife and two daughters.

25 years of X-mas sales

The shop was set up at a time when Christmas was primarily a ‘Christian festival’. So, the city had few shops that sold “Christmassy” stuff.

Anthony, who used to visit foreign countries frequently, wanted to change that. So, every time he returned to Chennai from one of his overseas jaunts, he would bring with him a few “interesting” items. Later, he decided to proceed with a full-fledged Christmas store with the things he had collected.

Now, from the first week of November till the first week of January every year, the apparel store transforms into a go-to place for Christmas decorations. “I have seen this store grow. It holds a special place in my heart. As a child, I would rush to the store after school during the Christmas season. The place is lovely,” commented Marlena Ann, Anthony’s 27-year-old daughter.

Despite a few frosty moments, like when the Goods and Service Tax (GST) was introduced and when the floods hit Chennai (2015), business at the Evergreen Christmas Centre has been good. The family takes pride in the way its customers continue to remain loyal and spread the word about their little-big store. “As a result, we have never been dependent on complex sales and marketing strategies,” she explained.

Where does it all come from?

Marlena said that each item sold at the shop is purchased abroad – Singapore, HongKong, Taiwan, Italy, and a few other places. “All Christmas stores have a ‘typical’ list of products – like Christmas trees, caps, and Christmas tree decorations. So does ours. In addition to these, we try to introduce a new product every year. This year, for instance, we have blue Santa Caps as well as a unique artificial Pine tree, which has been purchased from Switzerland. We also have the dew-drop Christmas tree, frosty trees etc,” she said.

The most popular item, however, has been the Nativity sets which have been imported from Italy. These souvenirs are made from a type of handmade fabric. The firm also seeks suggestions from their customers with regard to their merchandise. All items are purchased and shipped, approximately, by October.

This connect explains the popularity that the store enjoys among its clientele -- from college students to housewives to those from the diplomatic community – who throng it during the Christmas season.

Though it is managed just by a seven-member team across three branches, the store caters to clients far and wide thanks to its tie-ups with courier companies and transporters.

Come January, Evergreen Christmas Centre will go back to being another shop for clothes. But the merchandise it sells for about two months in a year is sure to keep the Christmas spirit evergreen.

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Published on December 20, 2018
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