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Shoppers sullen as Covid fears looms large over Onam fest

Vinson Kurian Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on August 28, 2020

The streets of Broadway which is the business hub of Ernakulam are about deserted as Covid fear keep people indoors on August 20   -  H Vibhu

The Covid-19 virus seems to have eaten into the build-up to Kerala’s national festival Onam, which normally sets the tone for the four-month-long festival season nationally, what with massive pull-back in disposable incomes leading to subdued demand across traditionally favoured shopping categories such as textile and consumer durable goods.

Many retailers in Kochi, have reported a 30-35 per cent drop in sales vis-a-vis the last season. Declaration of containment zones at random and spread of the virus have literally killed the Onam fervour leading to many to keep off the market despite outlets observing needed protocol, says Ajmal VA, Managing Director, Bismi Hypermarket.

Fear factor rules supreme

The localised mini lockdowns in several areas have hampered the movement of people. The slight perk-up in demand on the last few ahead of Onam is attributed to compulsive shopping decisions to clinch last-minute deals being announced by white goods manufacturers. Job losses and salary cuts have badly affected the consumer’s purchasing power, he said.

Jerry Mathew, Managing Director, White Goods, has noticed a shift in consumer purchase from city centres to rural outlets may be because of their decision to avoid a travel to the city and instead shop in the neighbourhood. This is apparently boosting sales in rural outlets.

“Overall, there is a 40 per cent drop in sales across all categories following a subdued consumer demand. The Covid-induced lockdown has also resulted in surge in sales of household items such as dishwashers, washing machines in the current season.” He sees good movement of TVs, and attributed it to online classes in educational institutions.

Textiles looses sheen

Prakash Pattabiraman, Executive Director, Kalyan Silks, said that the textile business was down by 60 per cent during Onam compared to last year. The Covid-19 situation has not given consumers an opportunity to venture out and celebrate Onam. This has eventually hit the sales. “But we are happy at least we could generate 40 per cent business during this period of distress.”

According to Dominic Savio, Brand Consultant and Managing Director, Buzzstop Integrated Communications, the ambient consumer mood is because of the cautious opening of the Onam economy that had taken a hit during the lockdown. “This should remind us that no pandemic can destroy the true spirit of a Malayalee as he prepares to celebrate Onam.”

Meanwhile, the State government has warned that the Covid-19 situation could worsen just when the State is preparing to enter the Onam season. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sounded sanguine about the inappropriateness of enforcing stringent restrictions during Onam festivities.

Infections likely to spurt

The Chief Minister said that said the government doesn’t want to upset people’s plans to celebrate Onam and went on to announce certain relaxations the other day even as the number of daily recoveries from the virus crossed the 2,000-mark for the first time. “It is left to the people to celebrate Onam safely,” he added.

But he advised people to confine celebrations to homes. They should also stick to protocols such as social distancing, wearing of face masks and frequent washing of hands. The police have been asked to ensure this, the Chief Minister added.

Published on August 28, 2020

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