KUALA LUMPUR: With just a week to Deepavali, traders at Little India in Brickfields are complaining that sales are slow and shoppers are not spending as much as they usually would, despite it being a post-pandemic period.

While shoppers are present in numbers to get items in preparation for Deepavali on Oct 24, many are looking for bargains rather than splurging on the once-a-year Festival of Lights.

Traders and small business owners who spoke to theSun said they were increasing their promotions to attract customers to purchase sarees, gold jewellery and other items traditionally popular during the celebration, such as an array of sweets and cookies that are being sold under canopies along the pavement.

Sasitharan Sundram, who manages a jewellery shop, said there is a 60% to 70% decrease in sales compared with before the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

“People are still coming to purchase gold jewellery, but I noticed that customers are more careful with their purchases. It seems like they have set a limit on how much to spend.”

Sasitharan said there is also a change in customer behaviour, attributing it to uncertainties in the economy and the falling ringgit value, that made the price of gold more expensive.

“If customers spend, they do so mainly for sarees and other traditional wear and items that are needed for the celebration, such as sweets and cakes and prayer items,” he added.

A decorative items and textiles store manager who gave his name only as Jahir said before Covid-19, Little India would be packed with people even on weekdays. But now, it is only crowded on weekends and public holidays.

“Last year, we could not operate because of the lockdown. But now, although many shops are open until late and people are free to go out, business is pretty slow this year.”

Traditional Indian attire store manager R. Subramoniam said he is looking on the bright side and praying his business would return to normal, after struggling the last two years due to the pandemic. “I sell lehenga (a traditional North Indian outfit), sarees, Punjabi suits, sherwani and other clothing items. But now, my shop is forced to offer attractive discounts of up to 50% to customers just to increase sales.”

“But sales are much better this year compared with the last two years because many people have resumed working and have some money to finally celebrate Deepavali in a bigger way this year.

“However, I noticed that shoppers have become a little reserved in their spending.”

Kanthan Muniandi, a traditional snacks and sweets seller who has been setting up his booth in front of the 7-Eleven store in Brickfields for the last 26 years, said business has been good, mainly because people can now go out to shop.

“I started operating at the bazaar nine days ago and sell muruku, achu muruku, halva, pakkoda and other snacks. So far, it has been good. Things are slowly going back to pre-pandemic days.

“There is just one more week before Deepavali and I think the crowd is growing as the celebration draws closer,” he said.

Sindhu Ramesh, 29, a beautician who came to Kuala Lumpur from Johor Baru, said she is going all-out to celebrate this year.

“I am very excited about the coming celebration as I will be with my in-laws in Kuala Lumpur, after spending the last two years celebrating on our own in Johor.

“It is getting quite busy, as everyone is rushing to complete their last-minute shopping. I am looking for clothing and some decorative items for the house. I like shopping here due to the variety of choices. I also get to walk around surveying what is on offer before deciding what to buy.”

Shopper Gopalan Marimuthu, 39, said this year’s Deepavali celebration is an opportunity for small business owners and entrepreneurs to recover from losses incurred in the last two years.

“This is the right time for local entrepreneurs to rise again and get back on track after being affected by Covid-19. Although the economic situation is still bad, shoppers like me are managing somehow. We are still shopping for Deepavali, although not as much as before the pandemic,” he said.

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