Diwali, the five-day festival of lights that begins Sunday, is India’s biggest holiday, but local retailers haven’t leveraged the religious and cultural event to the extent that Christmas has been commercialised in the West. And it doesn’t yet stack up to the big shopping frenzies in China and the US. Last year, an Indian retail trade group estimated spending across all categories around the holiday totalled $15 billion, which sounds like a lot until you consider that Alibaba alone recorded $85 billion in Singles Day sales via its platforms in 2021.
That’s not the whole story though. Singles Day sales have almost certainly peaked (Alibaba doesn’t release raw numbers anymore, rarely a good sign), and retailers’ revenue from Black Friday, Prime Day and other events typically grows by single digit percentages, if at all. Diwali’s all upside: during the lead-up to the festival, a period that typically lasts from September through early November, Indian shoppers spent $27 billion, up 25 percent from a year ago and more than double the pre-pandemic figure.
That growth is, if anything, going to accelerate: India, this year, surpassed China as the world’s most populous country, and its economy, while smaller, is growing faster. Diwali, observed by Hindus and other religious communities, is also a global phenomenon, celebrated by big Indian diasporas in the US, the UK and other nations.
What do people celebrating Diwali like to buy? Traditionally, gold jewellery is a big seller, though near-record prices for the metal may hold back demand (that hasn’t stopped big Indian retailers, including Kalyan Jewellers and Tanishq, from aggressively opening new stores ahead of the holiday). High inflation may keep some lower and middle-income consumers on the sidelines this year, with the bulk of growth expected to come from luxury brands. Jimmy Choo, for example, launched a Diwali capsule fronted by the Bollywood actor Ananya Panday. Jio World Plaza, the long-in-the-works luxury megamall in Mumbai, opened in the nick of time. Shopping is increasingly migrating online, however: Amazon and Flipkart both reported spikes in fashion sales during shopping events in October, a good sign for how they’ll fare during Diwali.
Arnika Thakur contributed to this article
What Else to Watch for This Week
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US October inflation data, UK September unemployment rate released.
Future Fabrics Expo, featuring sustainable textiles, begins in New York.
TJX, Target report results.
UK October inflation data released.
AI Fashion Week begins in Milan. Winning designs from last year’s contest recently went on sale at Revolve.
Ross, Macy’s, Burberry report results.
Inaugural F1 race in Las Vegas. Brands are treating the event as a potential watershed moment for the sport’s popularity in the US.
UK October retail sales, Eurozone October inflation data released.
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