Children choose their Santa Claus at New Market, ahead of Christmas. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Santa and snowman. Christmas tree, cake and mistletoe. The trappings of Christmas might be familiar, but those snapping them up are not.
The growing number of non-Christians celebrating the festival means budgets run as high as spirits this season.
And stores big and small are making the most of the buying boom, with cards, gifts, decorations and confectionery leading the list of must-haves at year-end.
“Christmas is no longer related solely to religion. It is a festive occasion,” explains Pramod Arora, the joint managing director of Archies Ltd. “When we started a few years ago, Christmas was a small-scale project. But today we see it as a market with potential.”
It is this time of year that sales at Starmark reach their peak, says Gautam Jatia, the CEO of the Lord Sinha Road store. “Sales go up by 25 to 30 per cent around Christmas,” adds Jatia.
Gift items, candles and Christmas decor like bells and stockings are flying off the racks. The price tag for buys could read anything between Rs 19 and Rs 5,000. Christmas trees range between Rs 200 and Rs 12,000. Dolls, racing cars, beach sets and doll houses are big hits this year.
At Archies, Santas on bikes are popular. “The call centres and MNCs are influenced by the West. It is but natural that Christmas celebrations will percolate down to the young professionals, irrespective of their religious backgrounds,” feels Arora.
Nik Nish, too, records a “20 per cent increase” in footfall during this season, with “gifts that double as utility items” doing the best, according to manager Harpawan Singh.
Christmas shopping still involves a trip to Free School Street or New Market. Stars, balls, Santas, Christmas trees and gift packs are popular purchases.
“Items like colourful wreaths from Thailand, heart-shaped bells, mistletoe and silver bells have come in this year,” says Mohammad Adil of Gift Palace, a shop on Free School Street. The heart-shaped bells are priced at Rs 350 and the wreaths, Rs 150. Then there are glowing Santas from China for Rs 250.
“My sales have been very good this year,” says Saiful Houque of Holly Wood, in New Market.
At Nahoums, the traditional fruitcake is, as usual, the favourite. “We buy it every year,” smiles Sudeshna Roy, queuing up at the bakery with her five-and-a-half-year-old son Sreyas.