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Festive frenzy, spend spree

Durga puja is past, Christmas is some distance away but Diwali is here and the Calcutta consumer is making merry like never before.

The loudest cry, of course, is 'go for gold'. With Dhanteras adding to the dhamaka, the traditional one-day affair has turned into a five-day extravaganza. Footfall, compared to last year, was higher at most jewellery stops.

'Our five showrooms registered a combined footfall of over 50,000 in the past five days and sales have gone up by 25 per cent this year,' reveals U.K. Chandra, director of PC Chandra Group.

Lending a twist to the glitter tale is the Bengali buyer, accounting for the bigger chunk (65:35). The preferred purchase in jewellery this season is the lightweight gold ornament. Traditional silver and gold coins, more for auspicious reasons than any other, are selling swift, too.

The gold rush is forcing showrooms to stay open much longer. 'We were downing shutters between 9 pm and 10 pm from Monday but were open till 1 am on Wednesday night,' says a south Calcutta jeweller.

The crib, of course, is the price rise. 'Sales would have been even better had the gold price not shot up recently,' complains Shobhan Dey of Subhas Brothers.

Special rates are stoking festive frenzy when it comes to car rollout. 'For many, Dhanteras is a very good day to buy a car,' says Prashant Bothra of Bothra showroom.

'Those with a decent budget usually go for bigger cars during this period, since they can buy small cars throughout the year,' adds the seller of Skoda, Volvo and Nissan who expects the purple patch to 'last for a few days after Diwali'.

Big cars to small surprises. From diyas to decorative flowers, candles to idols, the super-sales category this festive season comes gift-wrapped. Here, too, the bill ballooned as last year's knick-knacks were replaced by expensive utility items.

But the diya burned the brightest. 'We had to re-order the diya collection several times,' says Gautam Jatia, CEO, Emami Landmark.

Linen, bedcovers, table-mats and napkins are also doing well as sales rise by 20 per cent across segments over last year.

The Calcuttan is going beyond cosmetic changes when it comes to home decor. 'We're seeing a good demand for microwave ovens, refrigerators and mobile phones,' says Jiten Chawla of Cams Corner. 'High-end products are in demand with an emphasis on durability,' he adds.

And the timing was sweet for the launch of Samsung's DigitAll Home at City Centre on Thursday by Rahul Dravid and gang.

Bundling and attractive finance options have helped. Case in point: a Rs 1-lakh plasma projection TV comes with a home theatre system, a DVD pack and even a recliner to enjoy the show in.

House proud to look good, garments are going just fine. At Shoppers' Stop, the pop picks are fashion jewellery, women's apparel and casuals.

'If Durga puja noted a 45 per cent increase in sales from last year, a growth of 20-22 per cent looks likely for Diwali,' explains a spokesperson for the store.

Soap success ensures styles being dictated by popular characters on the small screen. The Jassi collection by Satya Paul is doing particularly well at Shoppers' Stop. At Pantaloons, the rise in sales is nearly 30-35 per cent compared to Diwali 2003, with women's wear topping the charts.

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