KOCHI: As schools are about to reopen in Kerala, traders selling items such as shoes, bags and uniforms in Ernakulam are hoping for an upward trend in their business. Last year, the market barely had any sales owing to lockdown. However, with the reopening of colleges, markets saw business picking up gradually, say traders.
Usually, traders procure school bags, shoes, uniforms etc months before the start of the academic year. “This year, we started stocking up when the date of reopening was announced. We didn’t stock up like in the pre-pandemic period since we are unsure of the sales and didn’t want to end up in debt,” says Basheer Ahmed, owner of a footwear shop in Broadway.
“So far, the reopening has given us only 10% of what we used to earn during previous years. We cannot blame the customers also as many of them are reeling under financial crisis. Customers are opting for the low-cost items for kids,” adds Basheer.
As schools will see an increase in the number of students from November 15, traders expect the sales to pick up only then. Items like lunch bags, pencil pouches are also not seeing any demand. “Earlier, the sale of bags and footwear were high during school opening. Now, we are able to sell only 5% of the stock. Not even one school bag has been sold yet,” says Syed Ibrahim, a shopkeeper.
According to many traders, parents are now choosing low-end brands, as the cost of living has spiked up during the pandemic. “While buying school shoes, they now prefer the starting price. And for casual shoes, they often pick the one that starts at Rs 300,” adds Syed.
“We have kept only 50 pieces of stiched uniforms. The rest are materials. We had several sections for umbrellas, bags etc. This year, we have limited them to one section,” says Matilda Jasmine, manager at Radhakrishna textiles.
Book sales picking up
Due to online classes, demand for textbooks and notebooks saw a downward trend last year. Private booksellers say they will get clarity on the demand for school books only during the second week of November. “Compared to last year, sales have picked up. If 2022 has to be a healthy academic year, the current reopening should not go in a staggered manner. Only then schools will be back to normal,” says Krishnaraj G, manager of H&C Stores. Higher secondary and college books have been selling in large volumes compared to books of lower classes, he says. “Apart from textbooks, there hasn’t been much demand for other study materials,” he adds.