Come festive season and people throng the markets in old city Ahmedabad such as Teen Darwaza and Kalupur to buy clothes, jewellery and other house hold items. During Diwali, the footfall touched several thousands even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as the city police struggled with traffic snarls, encroachment by vendors and unruly crowd.
However, that is not the case with the “seasonal market” near Dilli Darwaza in the 600-year-old walled city of Ahmedabad, where traders sell pichkari and colours during Holi, kites during Uttarayan and firecrackers during Diwali.
Situated hardly a kilometre from the Teen Darwaza market, the seasonal market refers to two dozen shops and carts selling items catering to the festive season in Ahmedabad. This year, almost a month before Diwali, the shops were decked with firecrackers, candles and Chinese lights as sellers eagerly awaited customers, especially kids who are usually fascinated with the shimmering packages and toy guns that emit flashlights.
But this year, their products failed to attract the usual crowd, lament the shopkeepers of seasonal market.
Situated a kilometre from Gandhi bridge, the seasonal market in old city is witnessing an unprecedented downfall in sales as shopkeepers claim that they might incur a heavy loss this year up to 75%. Here, salesmen try to lure four-wheeler passengers into their shop, addressing them as “Seth” and requesting them to visit the shop once.
“Dekhne ke paise nahi lagte sahab,” they plead. The four wheelers don’t stop.
Fifty-year-old Mahesh Udhvani, owner of JK Seasonal store, says that he picked up goods (firecrackers, toy guns and candles) worth Rs 2.5 lakh a month ago, hoping to do good business. “Last year, I sold all of the items and this year, I took ‘maal’ worth Rs 2.5 lakh. However, we don’t have any customers this year. The cheapest firecracker in my shop is ‘PopPop’ which is for Rs 10 each packet and costliest is the ‘sky shooter’ which comes for Rs 200 per item. I haven’t been able to sell them at all this year,” said Udhvani.
Similar is the case with 33-year-old Jimmy Patel, who runs Shri Krishna Enterprises seasonal shop, as he adds, “I still had firecrackers left over from last year and I also purchased some this year. However, there has been less than 25% sales this year.”
Police had restricted time to burst crackers on Diwali between 8 pm and 10 pm, while effigy burning was not allowed on Dussehra, leading to the sale of firecrackers declining, said the vendors.
The unsuspecting businessmen of seasonal market lament that they couldn’t grasp the market sense and sell some other items before Diwali.
However, 2020 has not been very kind to them.
“Teen Darwaza is the hub of household decorative items that are sold before Diwali. Why would customers leave Teen Darwaza and come over here to buy. We have seen days when a single customer used to purchase firecrackers worth Rs 20,000. Even small businesses used to buy crackers from us in bulk. I have bought firecrackers for my shop by taking a loan of Rs 2 lakh and I can’t even afford to keep them in my warehouse. During Raksha Bandhan and Navratri we had meagre sales, but firecrackers were not even sold on Dussehra,” said Kalpesh Jadwani, another retailer.
Shopkeepers claim that a few of them have even shifted to Teen Darwaza market where the police have allowed their carts with firecrackers to be set up outside the market premises for safety reasons.
Kushiram Devani, 45, has a cart of his own upon which he sells candles. He says that he foresaw the dip in sales and only purchased goods worth Rs 7,000. “Lockdown has hit us hard this year,I tried selling rakhis on rakshabandhan and had a few customers,” said Devani.
The seasonal market is now looking upto the upcoming Uttarayan festival in January with the hope that they can bid goodbye to 2020 and to their ill fortunes.x
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