Onam overload in Thiruvananthapuram

Onam overload in Thiruvananthapuram
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In the lead-up to Onam, the textile traders have stocked up on all the latest trends in fashion and have also announced a slew of discounts to lure shoppers.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  Yet another Onam season is here. The markets in the capital, especially ones catering to textiles and home appliances, are abuzz with activity, eagerly awaiting shoppers to make up for the lull they face for the remainder of the year.

However, according to industry experts, around 40 to 50 per cent of business during Onam happens online. A big chunk of the rest prefer malls and large showrooms over traditional traders, leaving the latter in a lurch.

What also compounds the situation is the fact that Onam shopping, once a month-long affair, has been reduced to just a few days. “There’s no longer the old frenzy with regard to shopping. People are unwilling to spend too much money these days,  But we are hopeful that we’d still make good business in the coming days,” says Arshad N A, the district president of Kerala Textiles and Garment Dealers’ Welfare Association.

In the lead-up to Onam, the textile traders have stocked up on all the latest trends in fashion and have also announced a slew of discounts to lure shoppers. “We have hired extra staff to help manage the Onam crowd. Whether that was a good move or not will only become apparent after the festival,” Arshad adds.

If a shopper’s tendency to shop online is a rock in the traders’ jar of pain, lack of parking, and unregulated street vending are some of the ‘pebbles’. “We have taken this up with the state government, but the police continue to fine our customers and even shopkeepers for illegal parking.

This is the only time in the year we do enough business to keep us afloat all year. But the government is offering little or no assistance,” says Arshad, who’s been in the textile business for the past 11 years.
Cut-throat competition is another menace. “Corporate retail chains are ruling the home appliances market by undercutting everyone.

Many traders have stopped doing business on account of this. We can’t match these discounts as our running costs will shoot up. Even then, the sale is only negligible as most prefer to shop online these days,” says Ullas Udayakumar, who has been in the home appliance market for the past four decades.
To tide over this crisis, the traders’ group in each locality has come up with a lucky draw contest to attract customers during Onam. “This, in addition to the offers in store, will lure more customers,” Ullas adds.

Street vending ‘mafia’?

The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES), Kerala, has come out strongly against the unregulated street vending happening during the Onam festival. “We are paying GST and all other taxes for doing legal business,” alleges S S Manoj, KVVES president.

“Such street vending, which only happens for a few days, is ruining our business. They encroach on footpaths and set up shop right in front of business establishments. There is a mafia behind this. They bring traders from other states to set up wayside shops during Onam. They don’t pay GST or any other taxes. They make a quick buck and leave. The authorities are not taking against such illegal traders.” 

Poor purchasing power?

According to experts, the twin thorns of a surge in prices and diminishing purchasing power is likely to dampen Onam festivities for many. It is learnt that there is a 10-15 per cent hike in prices compared to previous years. 

“We are out of the shadows of the pandemic, but there is little money with the customers. To boost the economy, the government should pump money into the hands of the public. Here, the government is constantly talking about one financial crisis or the other. Earlier, the government used to give salary in advance, even that’s not happening now,” says Nagaraj R, who’s been running a shop in Chalai Market for the past 30 years.

The surge in prices has had many customers opting for monthly instalment options for buying premium electronic goods. Marketing expert Nikhil Shyam feels that people in Trivandrum prefer buying textiles from shops. 

“The prices have gone up, and the salaried class like us are relying on credit for Onam shopping. Though the shops have announced discounts, they still remain infeasible,” Nikhil says.

Kanchana Sreeram, a city resident, feels that the prices are too high in Kerala. “I like to shop offline. Sadly, dresses and fabrics are sold at high prices now in Kerala. My recent travel to Kolkata has revealed that prices are significantly lower there,” she says.

Deepthi Vinod, another resident who loves to shop locally.  says, “Earlier, I used to go and just shop. This year, I have become more careful. So I am on a window shopping spree now to check the prices and quality so that I can do the main shopping later.” 

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