A dear mentor once told me,
“The most glorious mess in the world is that of Christmas”,
and only now do I realize how strikingly true that remark is. Gathering around the Christmas tree anticipating a bevy of presents, sipping on a hearty mug of hot chocolate while lolling away to the blissful tunes of an old record player, or even merely sitting under the gleaming golden lights, revelling in the spirit of love, joy and togetherness the season imbues – no matter the circumstance, Christmas season brings with itself a significant amount of jollities. However, gone are the days when they used to celebrate Christmas organically, making the erstwhile Christmas festivities only a far-fetched dream.
On the flip side, we today witness a myriad TV commercials, pamphlets and online stratagems encashing on this jolly season, hence giving it a commercial spin. Today, it is seen as an opportunity to be seized by both, small-scale retailers and retail bigwigs. Magnates like Topshop and Selfridges among others, lure potential consumers by price drops, heavy discounts and enticing sales.
High street and designer labels start introducing Christmas sales from as early as a month. Take for instance, Dune London whose sales commenced on December 12, offering a 50 per cent discount on select styles. Closer home, Amazon Fashion has come up with the Wardrobe Refresh Sale, happening over the Christmas weekend, proffering a range of exciting, sartorial wonders with a 40-80 per cent discount on products. Another such sale by the e-commerce giant is the Christmas Bonanza Sale which is live on their website, enabling consumers to purchase gifting and decor items at increasingly slashed-down rates.
Apart from the famed Christmas sales and offers, there are a string of other sales built around the season that only helps brands capitalise more, owing to bargain-hunters’ voracious shopping appetites. The H&M Black Friday sale in India last month beckoned hoards of consumers to shop their Black Friday collection at a staggering drop of 50 per cent off. Similarly, Boxing Day sales take off just after Christmas day and offer just as many (or more) discounts to shoppers. English e-tail giant ASOS has set the ground running with introducing half-price deals across departments (think beauty products and basic essentials to designer labels), starting from December 22.
Over millennia, brands and retail giants have thus unabashedly capitalized on Christmas seasons, where diverse merchandise are up for grabs at insanely cut-down rates – the primary reason behind this being consumers wanting to shop in abundance during the holiday season, and retailers wanting to do away with hackneyed, last season collections, a win-win for both parties.
However, India is stippled with a plethora of brick-and-mortar, small-scale retailers, factory outlets and export surplus stores which may not meet with the same fate as high-end labels. Considering these modest stores already sell products at prices which are substantially cheap, it is a question whether Christmas sales or any kind of seasonal sale for that matter, make that much of a difference to the shop’s earnings. Adarsh Mishra, Owner at B.K. Garments, a leading fashion retail store in Mumbai, says,
“Seasonal sales tend to be more fruitful to brands and big chains because during this period, they pull out their year-round surplus, leading to stock clearance. This is exactly why they are able to vend off their collection for a discount of as much as 70-80 per cent. You see, they have nothing to lose. This is beneficial to them, but a hindrance to us.”
Hence, owing to their already slashed rates, surplus stores seemingly hem a sale all year round.
“We do not have a designated Christmas sale as such, but during this season, our discount margins are huge, owing to the great footfall we receive”
Adarsh says, hence highlighting the fact that with every festive season, small-scale, independent retail stores do bear discounts but not necessarily in the same manner as an H&M or a Zara; because the latter cash in on good will, selling products thrice (or more) their production price, assured that the brand-conscious consumer will make a purchase nevertheless.
In fact, a huge chunk of retailers have preponed their end-of-reason sales by a week due of leftover stocks.
“What we are hearing from retailers is that they still have a lot of stock left. These sales are happening early to liquidate those stocks,”
said Anupam T., vice-president of Oberoi Mall in Mumbai, in an interview to Live Mint.
Another point that Adarsh touched upon was the concept of ‘White Sale’ which commences two-three days before Holi, enabling people to purchase white-hued garments for the festival. This is the period of time when a year-full of white clothes are sold at the highest rate.
Sales in Indian retail stores are always peaked during Diwali because that is the time of the year which witnesses a massive onslaught of consumers. According to Adarsh, the entire winter season serves as host to sizeable discounts for these retailers and suppliers, where apparels are sold at discounted prices in a bracket of three months.
Contrary to popular opinion, Adarsh says that garments which are on sale are not outdated but are either surplus or minorly defected.
A medley of seasonal sales on e-commerce sites poses a substantial challenge to the likes of B.K. Garments because, as Adarsh says,
“Even now, when it comes to the apparel sphere, a huge chunk of consumers still prefer to buy the product only after feeling and trying it first-hand.”
However, the echoing effect of online advent is inevitable. The consumer count of B.K Garments, too, has come trickled down from 20,000 annual visitors to 16,000 in the current year.
Talking about the future of sales for small-scale retailers in India, Adarsh sees bleakness, particularly after the entry of GST (Goods and Services Tax) which has excessively tampered with their means of transaction. When it comes to the retail sale culture a few years down the line in India, Adarsh says,
“Sales and discounts to us will only be relevant when we are able to manufacture more, just like larger chains.”
The Indian consumer, as we know it, has an insatiable appetite for branded apparels, particularly when they are discounted. With so many seasonal sales underway and retailers jostling for the consumer’s attention with prices as low as they can ever be, we can safely predict that this sale extravagance is only going to sprout further.