With the Dashain festival just around the corner, merchants in Nepal have begun gearing up for what is traditionally the busiest shopping season of the year. However, this year’s preparations are tinged with caution, as shopkeepers are not overly optimistic about a sales boom during the festive season.
For nearly two years, the Nepalese market has shown little enthusiasm during the festive season, and this year appears to be no exception. Traders are tempering their expectations for bumper festive sales, citing various economic challenges that have persisted.
Experts attribute the decline in sales and profits during these festive times to economic slowdowns, both domestically and globally. While there has been a gradual easing of import trade with China, merchants are importing fewer goods than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dashain, one of Nepal’s major festivals, is set to commence on October 15, followed by Tihar, another prominent celebration. Economists emphasize that the country experiences significant economic activity during September and October, primarily due to these two festivals, which are widely celebrated by various communities.
While there is no precise data available, economists estimate that between 40% to 70% of market activities take place during Dashain, Tihar, and Chhath. However, this year, market dynamics are far from favorable.
In light of the challenging market situation, traders have reduced orders for items like readymade garments, bags, and accessories. The primary factors driving customers away are rising prices and a decrease in people’s spending power. A combination of high bank interest rates, inflation, a weakened currency, reduced demand, and decreased government capital spending has contributed to the economic slowdown in the country.
Despite these challenges, the supply of imported goods remains relatively stable, with shipments beginning to arrive in the market. However, traders are not hopeful about Dashain sales, as the prices of essential goods, including food items, have seen a sharp increase. Additionally, rental costs for business premises have risen, adding to the financial burden.
Nevertheless, some sectors, such as mobile sets and consumer electronics, are cautiously optimistic about better festive sales this year. Domestic dealers anticipate that consumers are eagerly awaiting festive sales offers on mobiles and electronic goods. To entice customers, dealers are introducing festive themes and promotions, especially for Dashain.
The implementation of a mobile device management system is expected to boost sales, as travelers coming from abroad will likely bring fewer mobile sets than before. Although the overall economic situation remains uncertain, the response to festive sales from customers has been promising so far, with the mobile market exhibiting pre-pandemic levels of enthusiasm.
Mobile dealers have reported that shipments of cell phones for the festive season are on their way and should arrive without the complications faced in previous years. All mobile imports come from China, and border points are operating smoothly this year.
Bishnu Gyawali, Deputy General Manager of CG Electronics, expressed cautious optimism, saying, “The economic situation is definitely not positive, and it is going to impact festive sales. But we are hopeful that sales will be satisfactory. The company is introducing a festival scheme, which is expected to boost sales. We are expecting good sales of TVs and refrigerators during Dashain and Tihar this year.”
Even the automobile sector, which endured a seven-month import ban last year, is anticipating robust business during the upcoming festive season. While high interest rates and complex bank financing have posed challenges for car sales, the Nepal Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) hopes for business worth Rs20 billion during this year’s festivities.
Interestingly, electric vehicles are expected to outpace gasoline-powered vehicles in terms of sales growth, particularly those with small engine capacities. This shift reflects a growing trend towards more sustainable transportation options among consumers.
As Nepal prepares for the Dashain festival, the country’s merchants are navigating a complex economic landscape, hoping for a revival in festive sales despite prevailing challenges.