For the second straight year, the gems and jewellery industry is set for almost a washout of business on Akshaya Tritiya as only about 10 per cent of pre-Covid sales of 2019 are expected on Friday amid the raging pandemic sapping footfalls and purchasing power of people.
In a normal year, the industry does business of 25-30 tonnes on Akshaya Tritiya, but this year, it expects a maximum of 3-4 tonnes of sales as offline sales have been badly impacted. Some organised players like Kalyan Jewellers did online bookings of gold which will be physically delivered later.
"The second wave of the pandemic is turning out to be much worse than last year with huge loss of life across the country. This has created an overall negative consumer sentiment," All-India Gems & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) chairman Ashish Pethe told PTI.
He said lockdowns are imposed in almost 90 per cent of the states, where retail jewellery stores are closed and no delivery is allowed.
This year, Pethe said, the business on the Akshaya Tritiya is expected to be around 3-4 tonnes compared to 2-2.5 tonnes last year and 25-30 tonnes during the pre-Covid times.
The jewellery industry is witnessing token digital and tele bookings, where the customers are purchasing or booking the bullion and asking for delivery when things improve at the ground level, he said.
"Jewellers are expecting only 10-15 per cent sales this Akshaya Tritiya in places where the lockdown is not imposed or there are partial shutdowns. Mostly coins, bars and small jewellery items are getting booked for this auspicious day," he added.
India's Covid-19 tally of cases climbed to 2,40,46,809, while the death toll rose to 2,62,317 with 4,000 fresh fatalities, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Friday.
During the ongoing second wave of the Covid-19 infections, many states have imposed lockdowns or lockdown-like restrictions as a desperate measure to restrict the spread of the virus.
India Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA) director and PNG Jewellers Chairman and Managing Director Saurabh Gadgil opined that even as there have been digital bookings taking place since morning, the overall consumer sentiment is negative due to the second wave of the pandemic raging across the country and lack of liquidity.
"Last year, the overall sales had been around 2.5 tonnes and this year we are expecting around 1-1.5 tonnes, which is even less than last year and only 5 per cent of the normal 25-30 tonnes business of pre-Covid level," he stated.
"Once things settle down, the consumer sentiment will pick up as gold prices are expected to go up from the current levels," he added.
Echoing a similar view, Kalyan Jewellers Executive Director Ramesh Kalyanaraman said the business is expected to be minimal as only 20 per cent of the company's showrooms are open with limited 3-4 hours restrictions.
"Akshaya Tritiya is mainly big in the southern states, which are under lockdown. Only in 2-3 states, retail showrooms are allowed to open from morning 6 am till 10 am, which is odd hours for the customers," he added.
However, the company, which had launched the Kalyan Jewellers Gold Ownership Certificate during last year's lockdown, continues to see some traction this season, he said.
Suvankar Sen, CEO of Kolkata heaad-quartered Senco gold, stated that as most markets are under lockdown, business is only taking place though tele or digital mode.
"We are getting booking and enquiries mainly for coins, bars, small as well as wedding jewellery. Lack of delivery on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya has been a major deterrent for the digital sales industry. We expect delivery to begin from June onwards. However, our regular clientele have continued to book bullion," he added.
World Gold Council Managing Director, India, Somasundaram PR said Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated under the shadow of Covid pandemic for a second year in a row.
"Amid lockdowns in several parts of the country and an uneasy air of fear that hangs, consumer sentiment remains muted and offline sales have been severely impacted, particularly in major cities and gold consuming states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal," he noted.
Many organised jewellers have, however, adopted digital and omnichannel strategies to reach out to their consumers, learning from the lockdown experience of 2020, he said.
"Coupled with decent pre-bookings before lockdown, these steps could redeem the festival from being a complete washout and present a slightly improved picture than last year," he added.
Precious metals trading platform Augmont Director Ketan Kothari said the country is going through the worst phase in the second wave, but during the pandemic, another method of saving or buying the yellow metal has been gaining immense popularity which is in the form of Digital gold.
"In 2020, we had sold around 0.01 tonne of Digi Gold on Akshaya Tritiya and in 2021, the same volume is increased by almost 150 per cent as Augmont sold around 0.03 tonne of gold till 1430 hours. Gold coins and gold bars in the range of Rs 3,000-4,000 is more preferable for buyers this year," he added.