Oct 28, 2008
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Hindu festival brings Indian shoppers back to malls

Oct 28, 2008

Photot : Sajjad Hussain/AFP
NEW DELHI, Oct 28, 2008 (AFP) - Indians thronged stores for last-minute shopping on Tuesday for the Hindu festival of lights, largely ignoring the global financial crisis that has slowed down the economy.

Some malls in national capital New Delhi reported record business on the eve of Diwali as buyers rushed to get clothes, food, jewellery and cosmetics for Tuesday's celebrations, traders said.

"Footfalls peaked on Monday and the largest presence of buyers were at the chain stores, especially clothing, footwear and cosmetics," said O.P. Goyal from New Delhi's largest mall, the Great India Place.

In the eastern city of Kolkata, the Reliance Retail chain also reported brisk sales.

"We did 200 million rupees (four million dollars) in sales during the weekend and we hope to do well today also," Reliance Retail sales vice president S.S. Shekhawat told the Press Trust of India (PTI) on Tuesday.

Kolkata jewellers also reported brisk Diwali sales.

"In value terms, the growth is 20 percent higher than the previous year while in volume terms it could be around 10-15 percent higher," Kolkata-based Senco Gold Ltd. executive director Subhankar Sen said.

Shopper Anuradha Kapoor, a New Delhi-based architect, said the global economic slowdown had not dented enthusiasm for Diwali shoppers.

"Just around two percent of our population form India's investor community so it does not really effect us directly -- at least not now," she said while shopping for a microwave in the suburbs of Noida city.

Indian shares have fallen more than 36 percent in the past four weeks on sustained overseas fund selling.

The global slump muted celebrations on Tuesday, however, in the southern city of Bangalore, India's computer software hub, PTI reported.

"There is a lot of cutdown in gifting for customers," said T V Mohandas Pai, a director in Infosys Technologies, India's second largest software firm.

"Exuberance has given place to seriousness," he added.

Diwali is celebrated with fireworks but the firecracker business in New Delhi reported lacklustre trade as only a fifth of some 5,000 city retailers were permitted to set up stalls this year, traders said.

"The police have issued only 1,000 licences this year to retailers, besides prices of firecrackers too have shot up by 30 tp 40 percent over last year," said trader Amrit Jain from the city's Mayur Vihar middle-class district.

A spate of bombings across India since May coupled with environmental concerns have forced the authorities to clamp down on the sale of Diwali firecrackers.

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