Marketers see an extended shopping season this year, which will go beyond Onam

After a devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections across India in the first half of 2021, the country is on the path towards recovery. The vaccination drive has led to positive consumer sentiments and the reopening of markets and malls are seeing people returning in droves.

Onam is an occasion that every Keralite, anywhere in the world, celebrates. Just a month back, Kerala was reeling under the highest number of daily COVID-19 infections and also faced rising cases of the Zika virus and there was no clarity on whether markets would be opened up for Onam shopping. As the COVID-19 situation improves, Kerala is looking for a bumper festive season this year, which has brought great cheer to brands and marketers, of course, while adhering to various safety protocols.

To understand brands and consumers’ sentiment, Adgully’s premier #GullyChat on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 turned the spotlight on ‘Onam – Bringing the sentiment back to the market’ – whether Onam will meet the expectations of marketers, where the festival will spur a buying frenzy and lead to a more resurgent festival season ahead.

The discussion was joined by some leading marketing and industry experts:

Arha Padman, Assistant General Manager, Duroflex

Ramsai Panchapakesan, SVP, National Lead, Media Buying, Zenith

Sudeep Kumar, Cluster Head, Mathrubhumi Group (Print)

Varghese Chandy, Vice President - Marketing, Advertising and Sales, Malayala Manorama

Xavier Prabhu, Founder & MD, PRHUB + APAC President & Member of Global Board, IPREX

How is festival sentiment looking for Onam in Kerala?

According to Arha Padman, “While the pandemic and lockdowns have dampened the spirit, one shouldn’t underestimate the hope that Onam brings. With the auspicious time starting only yesterday, one can also expect a postponement of purchases extending Onam purchases. If the lockdown comes back post Onam this weekend, this might dampen some of these expectations of extended purchases.”

Agreeing with Padman, Xavier Prabhu said, “It's all about how big or overpowering that optimism is. The issue is beyond sentiment, with other factors at play as well.”

Speaking about the market sentiments, Ramsai Panchapakesan said, “Firstly, people have become more resilient, and adverts have gone all out to make the surroundings lively, resulting in the market being upbeat. The festivities have lifted consumer sentiments. From the safety side, 69% of adults are partially and 26% are fully vaccinated now.”

Highlighting the importance of Onam in Kerala, Varghese Chandy said, “Onam is the most important festival in Kerala and is a period of intense shopping and brisk business for all brands and categories. The run-up to Onam this year was a little muted, owing to the restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. We are seeing more positive sentiments now.”

He further noted, “The Government decision allowing shops to operate from 7 am to 9 pm on all days of the week has been a catalyst and will accelerate economic activity. There is pent up demand which needs to be fulfilled, along with the traditional shopping spree which happens during Onam. So, our Onam outlook is positive. What we also see happening this year is an extended shopping season which would extend beyond Onam.”

Sudeep Kumar mentioned here how the heavy footfalls in malls and shopping centers in the first weekend of Onam this year are definitely an indication of the upbeat festival sentiments.

Will digital engagements and e-commerce prevail this Onam?

Most of the experts felt that people will go for traditional offline shopping rather than buy from e-commerce portals this Onam. They cited markets opening up as well as issues related to logistics as reasons for this.

Prabhu said, “From what I hear, there are significant logistical issues on ground which might be due to COVID-19 restrictions. For instance, if one orders from Amazon in Bangalore or Mumbai, barring certain categories, they can expect delivery within 2-3 days. But in Kerala, even in a major city like Trivandrum, e-commerce delivery takes as long as a week if not more.”

He noted that COVID-19 has impacted manufacturing and supply chains throughout the country, hence replenishment of old stock with fresh stock is not happening fast enough across categories and brands. “This limits the choices before the consumers and dampens their enthusiasm as well,” he added.

“Online is also about impulsive purchases, but the moment you see a 10-12 day delivery timeline you hesitate, which is natural. Besides Amazon Pantry, Amazon Fresh,  Big Basket are yet to introduce their services in Kerala, which restricts the options available in the state,” Prabhu further said.

According to Panchapakesan, “E-commerce shopping is the new normal, while offline shopping is traditional and continues to be strong. Moreover, the retail sector’s recover has been more than expected with the introduction of home delivery option. While restrictions on on-ground activation continue, other mediums have a free flow in providing infotainment.”

Kumar noted that since there are no restrictions on free movement these days, that won’t be a deterrent for sales.

Shedding some light on hoe people will be celebrating Onam under the shadow of COVID-19, Varghese said, “Large gatherings may not take place, even as celebrations will take place at homes. People prefer to celebrate with their loved ones in person. With a large section of the population now vaccinated, gatherings will be safe at homes to enjoy sadyas and camaraderie. There are no restrictions on movement now and people can easily commute across Kerala.”

“Onam and accompanying festivities are a relief after many tough months in the state. With the lockdown being selectively lifted, people will indulge in retail buying as well,” Padman remarked.

Follow the complete conversation on Twitter – @adgully.

(Edited by Shanta Saikia.)


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