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Diwali 2011 glitter in Mumbai despite inflation!

MUMBAI: In the run-up to Diwali, the shopping mood in India's financial capital is upbeat despite the spiralling cost of living. Garments, furnishings and high value consumer electronics are flying off the shelves, but gold, silver and dry fruits are getting a cold shoulder thanks to a jump in their prices this year. Contrary to popular perceptions, people are out shopping in droves at malls, shopping plazas, shopping centres and wayside stalls for clothes, gifts and sweetmeats, and hunting for bargains.

People are apparently buying certain categories of gifts and durables wholeheartedly in the true spirit of the festival season, said several shopkeepers and managers.

For instance, Bhavnagri Farsan & Sweets, a five-decade-old popular retailer in Mumbai's Borivali suburb, is overwhelmed by bulk orders from call centres, both for their staff and for people connected to the BPO business, said its owner Rakesh Shah.

"We have been working 24X7 since the first week of this month to fulfil the orders, besides catering to the hordes of retail buyers who queue up 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily," Shah said.

The most popular items on demand include sweets or snacks with a long shelf life, he said.

Garments and furnishings retailer Ajay Vora said people's response this year "is unusual".

"Diwali is the biggest shopping opportunity of the year, but in the past inflation made people cut down drastically on their shopping budgets. Not so this year. Maybe 2011 is lucky," Vora said. However, precious metals like gold and silver are not being picked up as well as other items, probably due to their high prices.

With gold prices hovering around Rs.26,000 per 10 gm, people appear reluctant to invest in this age-old precious and auspicious commodity, said retail jeweller V. Shrikrishna. "Besides, many banks are also offering gold investment and buying options. The country's first gold, silver and jewellery ATM was opened by a leading retailer Saturday. This enables people to make discreet, auspicious purchases," said Shrikrishna who runs a Pramila Jewellers showroom in north Mumbai. However, a traditional gifting item, dry fruits, is not so popular on the shopping agendas of the people, according to an official of American Dry Fruits at Churchgate in south Mumbai.

Source: Economic Times, Oct 24, 2011