India’s biggest shopping season wasn’t all that big: Report


By Anirban Nag

The festival of Diwali is supposed to herald India’s biggest shopping season of the year. Purchases did happen, but not a lot, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report.

More than 90 per cent of storekeepers indicated footfalls were lower than the last year’s festival period, according to the report, based on analysts’ visits to more than 120 retail outlets in the financial capital of Mumbai in the week leading to Diwali, the country’s equivalent to Christmas.

“Despite the festive season, we observed several empty shelves and early store closures,” said Sanjay Mookim, an equity strategist at the bank. “Mumbai is not India, and our sample is arguably small. Yet, we think our conversations help create a useful reference for recent festive season demand trends.”

India is witnessing a sharp slowdown due to waning consumption and businesses had pinned their hopes on Diwali for a revival in sales. Purchasing managers surveys on manufacturing and services activity for October indicate that demand in the economy is still pretty weak.

India is set for another quarter of weak growth following the 5 per cent expansion seen in the April-June period — its slowest pace in six years. Gross domestic product data for the quarter ended September is due November 29 and will probably show the economy grew 5.5 per cent, mainly flattered by a low base last year.

The BofAML report said about 70 per cent of retailers suggested revenues were lower year-on-year and given the low expectations, about 35 per cent were satisfied with sales this year. Many retailers reported they were losing out to online sales and branded stores in popular malls.


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