People throng Sivakasi for crackers at dirt-cheap rate; sellers have mixed emotions

TNIE's interaction with customers at different shops revealed that the enthusiasm for travelling the distance emanates from the varieties of crackers sold, at discounted rates.
People shopping for firecrackers ahead of Diwali. (Photo | P Jawahar)
People shopping for firecrackers ahead of Diwali. (Photo | P Jawahar)

VIRUDHUNAGAR: B Sampath Kumar, of Chennai, was up at 4.30 am on Thursday; not for an early-morning jog. The 40-year-old drove 500 km to Sivakasi, to purchase firecrackers at a dirt-cheap price. After the first round of window shopping, Sampath bought crackers worth Rs 15,000.  

"Crackers are sold at discounted rates, in addition to another 50% off, in this region," said Sampath. Like him, people from Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchy, and Pondicherry, have jumped on the bandwagon.

TNIE's interaction with customers at different shops revealed that the enthusiasm for travelling the distance emanates from the varieties of crackers sold, at discounted rates. Police personnel deployed near Amathur, which falls on the way to Sivakasi, said, "At least 7,000 vehicles have been passing daily since the beginning of November."

As a result, multiple cracker shops have sprouted on either side of the route, with banners screaming discounts, going up to 90%. In the catalog, of one of the shops on Thiruthangal Road, 10 pieces of ground chakkar were priced at just `68. The MRP for the product was Rs 755, according to the catalog.  

Manufacturers, traders, and shop owners said that since customers bargain after purchase, the retail shops here have started abnormally hiking prices and then giving discounts on them. This, they said, would prevent customers from asking for discounts after purchase.

As a cracker manufacturing unit owner, S Subramanian (46), explained, "The actual rate of 10 pieces of ground chakkar is Rs 45. Ideally, a shopkeeper in this region will sell those for Rs 55, keeping a 20% profit margin, and an additional reasonable price margin in other cities," he said. The strategy of hiking prices and then giving discounts is to meet people's expectations and ensure profit.

The shopkeepers, however, also lamented misuse of powers by officials, who demand extra discounts.

Bulk purchase takes a hit

Several shopkeepers who have been in the business for years said that despite heavy footfall of customers in the region, the spike in the number of shops has hit the purchase quantity this year. "Hoping to make a profit, many people start their cracker venture," they said. Sources from the revenue department said that new DRO licenses were issued to 382 cracker shops in the district, between January and October. It is to be noted that a total of 2,317 DRO-licensed cracker shops and 646 PESO-licensed shops are functioning in the district.

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