The second day of pre-Diwali Dhanteras witnessed a tepid response from shoppers on Friday as gold and silver sales have likely to be fallen by up to 35 per cent year-on-year due to high prices and COVID-19 induced financial distress, although consumers moved to online buying to make most of the festival, jewellers said.
The buying was heavily restricted to light weight jewellery, coins and precious stones due to lower purchasing power and high gold rates, they said.
Due to the fear of coronavirus infection, many customers who had booked in advance were taking delivery of wedding orders on Friday, while some were seen buying safely through online brands like Tanishq and Melorra.
Those who could not afford precious metal shopped steel utensils to make most of the Dhanteras festival celebrated for two days this year, they added.
Dhanteras is an auspicious day for buying gold, silver and other valuables and is largely celebrated in north and west India.
Gold prices were ruling at Rs 50,425 per 10 gram on Friday up by over 32 per cent from Rs 38,096 per 10 gram on Dhanteras day in 2019.
Similarly, silver prices were ruling firm over Rs 62,000 per kg.
Speaking to PTI, All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council chairman Anantha Padmanaban said though footfalls in retail stores across the country picked up in the second half of the day but were still lower than the year-ago period because of fear of COVID-19.
However, jewellers are expecting good business in north and western India as well as in cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru, he said.
"Overall, the sales in terms of volumes are expected to be only 65-70 per cent of the last year's business. In terms of value, we expect to do 80-85 per cent of last year considering high prices," Padmanaban said.
According to World Gold Council Managing Director, India, Somasundaram PR, there was a clear trend of consumers moving to digital buying for investment related purchases like bars and coins this year.
"However, when it came to wedding and heavy purchases, people were still preferring physical buying because of their experiential nature," he said.
Quoting market reports, Somsundaram said, "In terms of volume, the industry is likely to do 60-65 per cent of last year's business. In terms of value, it is likely to remain similar to last year as the gold prices have gone up."
PNG Jewellers chairman and managing director Saurabh Gadgil said, "In terms of volume, we will be able to do 85-90 per cent of last year's business and in terms of value it will be more than last year as the prices have gone up this year."
The purchase for gold and silver coins, bars has almost doubled compared to last year, while for light weight jewellery it has grown by 25-30 per cent, he said.
However, for wedding jewellery even as the online browsing has doubled, the actual purchase is still happening through physical buying, he added.
Senco Gold and Diamonds CEO Suvankar Sen said the response for Dhanteras has been 70 per cent year-on-year in sales through ecommerce and digital channels.
There were also online advances and digital booking for store sales and use of other online tools was 15 per cent of total business done.
Tanishq vice president (marketing and retail) Arun Narayan said: "We have seen consequently a good Dhanteras and the drop in the gold rates over the past few days have also helped."
Lala Jugal Kishore Jewellers director Tanya Rastogi said, "People are browsing and shortlisting the items online, but the actual sales are happening offline.
“We expect to do 80 per cent of last year's business in terms of volume and 90 per cent in terms of value."
Whereas Bengaluru-based online jewellery brand Melorra Founder and CEO Saroja Yeramilli said: "While we expected to grow by 30 per cent, we have grown by 90 per cent yesterday. We are expecting very good sales today also."
Digital gold platform Augmont director Sachin Kothari said, "We have observed that the demand has doubled compared to yesterday and even last year's Dhanteras.
“Customers are keen to buy in the range of Rs 3,000- 4,000 on an average."
Candere.com founder and CEO Rupesh Jain said, "We closed Dhanteras 2019 with 250 orders and a revenue of Rs 60 lakh and we hope to surpass the numbers this year with a revenue of Rs 2 crore and over 500 orders by the end of the day."
Delhi-based Gem Selections and Khanna Gems Group chairman Pankaj Khanna said, "We have made a sale of Rs 3.11 crore this Dhanteras. Majority sale was of silver and gold coins. Instead of jewellery, people are preferring bullion owing to its less making charges."
Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters