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This Diwali is proving to be like no other. Age-old shopping traditions are being tested with covid upen-ding consumer behaviour.

For instance, many have taken to buying digital gold this Dhanteras, considered an auspicious time to buy precious metals by many Hindus, wary of visiting jewellery stores during the pandemic.

While consumers are hesitant about visiting stores, they are spending more time and money online, a trend that may outlive the pandemic.

However, not all shopping trends this year may be permanent. The work-from-home routine and online classes, for example, have triggered demand for mobile phones, laptops, household appliances and furniture like office desks and chairs as they seek to make life a little easier.

India’s festival season, which started end-August with Onam and will continue till mid-November, usually accounts for as much as 40% of annual businesses for white goods companies, an industry with annual revenues of 76,400 crore. Electronics and white goods manufacturers have reported robust demand for washing machines, large refrigerators, mobile phones and small kitchen appliances throughout October and expect record growth this year.

This Diwali will be one of the best in spite of covid, said Vijay Babu, vice president of home appliances at LG Electronics India. LG reported a 30% growth in the 10 days of Navratri from a year earlier, and the demand will continue up to Diwali, Babu said, adding that the demand for microwave ovens and dishwashers were “mind-blowing".

Samsung India also reported a 32% year-on-year jump in its consumer electronics business, excluding mobiles—led by washing machines, microwaves, refrigerators and large TVs. Premium household electronics grew 50% in the period.

But it’s not just electronics; home sales have also started to pick up. This festive season has seen the highest sales in a long time as conditions have turned favourable for home buyers, led by low-interest rates, bargain deals and incentives from the government. In Maharashtra, India’s most expensive real estate market, registration of houses rose by 37% year-on-year in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik from last year owing to a combination of factors, including a recent stamp duty cut by the state government.

“The sales rally is expected to continue in the December and March quarters. Builders are desperate to offload inventory and boost cash flows. This is interesting given we are just coming out of the pandemic. People are buying not only ready but also under-construction homes," said Pankaj Kapoor, founder and managing director, Liases Foras, a real estate research firm.

In contrast, apparel, which typically features among the best-performing segments during Diwali, remained a laggard this year as people largely stayed indoors. A Retailers Association of India business survey of 9 November said that apparel and clothing sales in September fell 52% from a year ago. That, however, improved to a 30% decline in October.

Jewellery is seeing a recovery in demand during Dhanteras and Diwali, though it may not be as robust as last year due to the twin effects of high prices and the economic crisis.

The auto sector is seeing a sharp rebound with companies such as Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Kia, Hero and Bajaj reporting a surge in sales during Dhanteras and Diwali.

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