By Manik Gupta
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New Delhi, Oct 22 (PTI) It is the season of lights, parties and gifts. And this Diwali, after a two-year pandemic-induced lull, people are thronging the markets to grab the perfect gift for their loved ones and keep the ritual of exchanging goodies alive.
This season, shoppers are once again contending with the problem of plenty, be it in deals or offerings, which has bewildered even the most seasoned buyer.
This was why Vandana Thapa, a homemaker in her 40s, played it safe and bought a mixed-bag of sorts, including electronics, home accessories to 'tried and tasted' mithai, to satiate her annual festival shopping cravings.
Her laundry list of items includes a bar cabinet for her brother, phone for her father, home decor items for colleagues and sweet boxes for her house help.
According to industry experts, even though gourmet hampers, home furniture and accessories, such as chic candle stands or crockery, and sweets are in huge demand, electronic devices, including mobile phones and smart wearables, remain the ones to beat.
Gaurav Khatri, co-founder of technology brand Noise, told PTI, "During the festival season, the demand for electronics and smart gadgets is at an all-time high and it's no different for the smart wearables segment... We speculate the industry to grow 2.2 times this festival season while we at Noise are expecting a growth of 150 per cent."
Expecting a "truly grand" Diwali, Manish Aggarwal, director of leading packaged food brand Bikano, has set a mammoth target of "Rs 400 crores" in sales across India.
Sid Mathur, founder of premium mithai brand Khoya, echoed Aggarwal's sentiments and claimed that sweetmeat sales at his Chanakyapuri store here had gone "beyond their own projections".
The festival season has set the cash registers ringing even louder for brands selling furniture, homeware and soft furnishing.
"We have seen a buoyant 50 per cent increase in sales over last year... Keeping up with the capital's trend, our other fast selling products have been our bespoke candles, the poker box and Eden collection, which are all doing very well," said Vikash Gupta, founder and CEO of Three Sixty, a lifestyle brand and design studio.
Like previous years, the online sector continues to garner strong demand, evident from cashback platform Cashkaro registering a "8X growth" in traffic and "5X growth" in sales compared to last year.
Online shopping aside, heavy footfall at malls has got the business and trade lobby excited.
"The last survey by the Retailers" Association of India has reflected a 15% increase in sales from pre-pandemic levels," said Yogeshwar Sharma, Select CITYWALK CEO and executive director.
Footfalls have steadily increased across shopping centres in the past quarter, he added.
"They now match pre-pandemic levels and have increased in the past few months due to the kick-off of the festival season. We see an almost 7-8 per cent growth with regard to sales and similar footfall.
"Also as a trend, we have witnessed that last year retailers were hesitant to stock up but supply chain issues have been minimised and retail stores are stocked up," Sharma added.
Wellness products have continued to find takers amid growing focus on immunity following the outbreak of COVID-19. Immunity-based gifting options such as dry fruit boxes, turmeric tea and spice kits have been popular gift options this year as well.
Vahdam India, a global wellness brand offering a vast range of wellness-based gift collections, including fresh teas and superfoods, has claimed to achieve "50-60 per cent" of their two months' India revenue through Diwali sales alone.
Gifting an experience has also become a sought-after option this Diwali.
Instead of dropping off a package at loved ones' homes, many are opting to gift them a break from the daily hustle by booking an exclusive staycation at five-star hotels and resorts.
While Radisson Gurugram, Udyog Vihar, for instance, is offering a one-night stay on double occupancy and breakfast at a discounted price of Rs 7,555, Fazlani Natures Nest in Maharashtra has curated an exclusive 'Diwali Rejuvenation Package' that includes a minimum three-night accommodation, meals and various wellness therapies. The price of the package starts from Rs 14,000 per night.
For those who want to make the 'festival of lights' a little brighter for the needy, options include purchasing gift boxes from brands such as 'Humanitive'.
These keepsake boxes, besides home decor products, accessories and eatables for loved ones, are equipped with a donation kit with details of the buyer's contribution and where it is eventually used, such as sponsoring a folding cane for the visually impaired to health supplements for a destitute elderly for 15 days.
The hampers cost between Rs 3,900 and Rs 6,500. PTI MG