February 14, 2021 10:43:33 pm
Cradling her two-month old son, Geeta, a street vendor on MG Road, hoped that she would make some quick earnings by selling heart-shaped balloons days prior to Valentine’s Day. However, she was far from hitting her luck. Like her, Valentine’s Day pit stops of florists, gift shops, bakeries and street vendors felt the strain of the post-pandemic economic downfall. Amid residual dread of the virus and changed perspective on relationships, an evident transition has occurred in the way people observed the day of love.
“I was a broom maker back in my village in Udaipur but I came here two months ago to have a better life. I had sourced bags of heart-shaped balloons to sell at Rs 200 per bag. It costs roughly Rs 100 to make an LED balloon but we try to price it at Rs 120 to meet margins,” said Geeta.
Mahadev Vithal Bhale, (30) who has been a street vendor in the same area for 20 years, said the Valentine’s Day market is at its worst this year. “We got all our items from Mumbai and on an average, fancy heart-shaped balloon packets were sold to us at Rs 950 instead of Rs 1,200, the price in pre-Covid years. The problem this year is that most of the items were sourced from China. They were poorly made. People are staying away from purchasing anything from China now. Unlike previous years, people are not eager to buy these items,” he added.
Florists in the city said due to low supply and putrescibility of red roses, the Valentine’s Day market saw a slump this year. Manoj Kumar, who has been selling flowers on MG Road for past 30 years, said although sales last year were hit due to sluggish economy, it was still 70 to 80 percent better than this time. “We bought bunches for Rs 150 but now it has gone up to Rs 300 in retail. Despite the ongoing wedding season and Valentine’s Day, we are yet to see any profit,” he added.
DN Godse, a florist since 1986 on MG Road, and Nitaicharan Patra, a standalone florist in Undri, witnessed low footfall of customers on Sunday morning but hoped that it would reach its peak later in the day. “We can call it ‘recession’ or ‘bad economy’ as people are not willing to spend. Roses are perishable items and that’s why people have shut their wallets,” Godse said.
Shopkeepers at gift shops said although the purchasing power of customers is satisfactory, there is a 15 to 20 percent hike in certain imported items due to increased cargo charges following the pandemic. “The footfall has been substantial and we expect it to go up. While small items were almost within the same price range, the cost of imported items has increased. If a teddy bear cost you Rs 200 last year, it is around Rs 500 now,” said a salesperson.
Aanchal Sapra, a chef at a Kalyani Nagar cake shop, said due to prolonged stay at home during lockdown, family bonds have strengthened and this has reflected in the orders in this year’s Valentine’s Day. Along with couples, family members are celebrating the day with each other. “This is one of the positives of the pandemic. I had children buying cakes for their parents, grandparents for their grandchildren. They are celebrating their love and relation with one another. Apart from the heart-shaped Piñata cake, we had regular heart-shaped cakes and cookies and cupcake bouquets as special items,” Sapra added.
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