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Stepping out well beyond gold

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Mohan Kumar wanted to replace his existing television set with a large flat-panel TV, to change his family’s viewing experience. Looking for the right brand, he found a series of advertisements in local newspapers, offering discounts and freebies in the category he was interested.

The ads were part of the sale offers put out by local and national retailers. Kumar, pleasantly surprised, had never before seen this burst of activity around the festival.

His experience is increasingly becoming that of many. Akshaya Tritiya is no more considered auspicious for buying gold alone. Consumer durables companies and retailers have stepped in to attract the sea of buyers who go out to shop on that day.

Much like Independence Day or Republic Day sales, the burst of activity begins a few days in advance. This year, retailers kicked in the offers from April 21 to April 24, the main festival day. On each day, most top retail chains saw business double, thanks to the aggressive promotional activities around the festival.

Rajan Malhotra, the Future Group’s president, retail strategy, and head of eZone, its consumer electronics retailer, says, “Business was definitely better than normal on most of the four days. I see this trend picking up.”

Ajit Joshi, chief executive of the Tata Group-promoted Infiniti Retail, which runs the Croma chain of consumer electronics stores, says, “We did business of Rs 10 crore on April 22, one of the best sales we’ve had in some time.”

Nilesh Gupta, chief executive officer of Vijay Sales, a large regional chain based in Mumbai, says, “Business was good, especially on the main festival day, despite it being weekday.”

Buoyed by the success this year, most retailers are expected to push Akshaya Tritiya next year as aggressively as they do I-Day or R-Day.

Anirudh Dhoot, director, Videocon Industries, also president of the Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association, says, “It is in the last two or three years that retailers have been devoting their attention to Akshaya Tritiya. This strategy is linked to the larger occasion-led buying that retailers have been pushing. As a manufacturer, we work closely wih them to help pull off occasions like these.”

Typically, products that do well during Akshaya Tritiya are big-ticket items across consumer electronics and home appliances. To keep the festival spirit going, retailers offer gold or silver coins on purchases of Rs 50,000 and above.

Market experts say what is also pushing retailers to seek the next occasion to draw consumers to their stores has partly to do with the not-so-buoyant sentiment among buyers today. Thanks to inflationary pressures, most consumers have opted to go slow or even defer purchases. Occasions such as Akshaya Tritiya or Dhanteras provide the right opportunity for retailers to get consumers out of their homes.

Says Ashwini Arora, head of research at Market Xcel, a Delhi-based custom research company that undertakes projects for consumer durables companies: “A few years ago, companies such as Archies sought the next big occasion to push their products. Modern trade, as well as large regional retailers, seem to be borrowing from this strategy.”

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