Avurudu on the streets
By Amelia Ryan and Priyangwada Perera
Ceylon Today Features
"I could give up shopping, but I am not a quitter," can be the most appropriate of statements found for the season. At the rate many of our friends were talking of bargain sales, discounts and special offers on credit cards, it is obvious that nobody is a quitter in this season when it comes to shopping. One cannot quit because the Sinhala and Hindu New Year is the most celebrated festival of the nation. There are so many traditions and rituals associated with it. One is expected to be dressed in new clothes.
You are given special colours to be dressed in. For those living in the cities, this is the time to head to one's village or home town and they do not go empty handed. You take gifts to one and all and the list of people is never ending.
From parents to siblings, your children to cousins and nephews, the next-door-child and your childhood friend's daughter who makes it a point to visit, the more you buy the more you are short of. Even though the spirit of the season is beyond mere shopping, it is something that is impossible to ignore. It is no longer the cuckoo bird that announces the Avurudu season. When vehicles are mostly in a stand-still position, when shops are brimming with people, we know Avurudu is here.
The Lankans going crazy with shopping during the season of Avurudu is nothing new to any of us. In order to find out what the shopping scene is like this Avurudu, Ceylon Today took to the streets and visited Colombo's famous shopping hub, Pettah. While Pettah is not everyone's favourite go-to place, it is a much loved place by the majority as you can hunt for almost anything at fairly reasonable prices. Walking down the scorching hot and bustling streets of Pettah we came to an understanding of both sides of the coin when it comes to Avurudu shopping.
It is always a good time to go shopping. However, the streets spontaneously get busy and come to life during the season of Avurudu with children getting their school holidays, workaholics taking some time off and all the outlets coming out with their mega sales. The traffic scene gets worse than it already is, yet people seem to have a good time wandering through the busy streets picking out gifts and clothes or simply window shopping. Walking through busy streets on a sunny afternoon may not sound like the most exciting task; however walking through the streets of Pettah is always an adventure.
In general the most prominent comment was "If you have money, it's Avurudu every day." Rosy Ohlmus was very enthusiastic.
"I kind of like the mad crowd. Things are cheaper over here and there is a greater variety." The next person to talk to us was Pushpakanthi. "I have already bought two dresses for myself. Dresses, frocks and everything is cheap .That is why I make it a point to come here," she spoke referring to the Fancy Shop she was shopping at. Chamila Caldera was busy shopping but the first thing she said when asked of this year's goods was that things are quite expensive. "But, I am here to buy clothes for ourselves and also to buy clothes as gifts. My home is in Galle and as always I will be going home to my village for Avurudu. My relatives in Galle feel very good when I buy clothes from Colombo as gifts. They feel special about it. So, no matter what, I make it a point to do it," Chamila concluded with a smile.
Even though we expect to find people buying gifts, there are others who take the season to do more than that. K.P. Nandawathi was there to buy towels. Why would anyone specifically buy towels? "I have my own shop where I sell handloom bed-sheets and pillow cases. But I buy towels from Colombo at a good discount. Here, I buy them at wholesale price, which is even better." It was interesting to see the many faces of business that many of us are unaware of and Nandawathi is not the only one to do so.
On a long line of customers Ceylon Today met Nirosha Perera and Wasantha Tissera at a cosmetics shop. "We are from Wennappuwa and we have our shop Malsha Fashion in Lunuwila. We sell ready-made clothes, fancy items and cosmetics. Over there we have a majority of Christians. So, they celebrate Easter apart from Avurudu. It is a good season for sales. When we get them for a cheaper price, our customers get the advantage. We also sell skirts, blouses, shirts and shorts apart from cosmetics."
Taking a stroll past a pavement shop full of colourful lunch boxes and water bottles we decided to stop and have a little chat with the owner, Jagath Pradeepthika. On being asked what his sales are like during this season of Avurudu, Pradeepthika expressed the following. "I don't sell the same items throughout the year. During the Christmas season I sell Christmas décor and from January till like mid July I sell water bottles and lunch boxes. You might wonder why I'm selling lunch boxes and water bottles during Avurudu but little children often break these items and they also like to take a new lunch box and water bottle with the start of every new school term. In terms of sales, I would say I have been having good sales during this season because I sell my items at very reasonable prices. My shop is a pavement shop so I don't have to pay a rent, no electricity bill and no water bill and thus I can afford to sell my items at a cheap price whilst having a little profit."
Although we believe sales hike up during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year with it being a festival celebrated by the majority of Sri Lankans, there happens to be a twist this year with many shop owners lamenting about their lack of sales. Taking into consideration the fact that many individuals shop for clothes during this season, Ceylon Today conversed with a few individuals who sell garments in order to find out what they had to say about business during this season.
Speaking to Ceylon Today , Ganeshan Rajkumar a pavement vendor who sells ladies, gents and children's clothes disappointedly shared with us the lack of business he has been facing the past two Avurudus. "Sales are very low this year and it has been like this for the past two years. Previously we used to have good sales at least 20 days prior to Avurudu but now we only have business three to four days before Avurudu. We generally give discounts during this season and this Avurudu I'm having a lot of discounts on all the items I sell because I have no business. I believe the main reason for the lack of sales is because of the shortage of parking around this area and people are not willing to pay parking fees", expressed Rajkumar.
Next, we stopped by Jubilee Emporium, a little shop stacked with colourful and sparkly sarees, shalwars, tops and materials.
Without doubt we all like to dress up always and present ourselves attractively and we put in that extra bit of effort to doll ourselves up during the festivities. Being fascinated by all the colourful clothes put out for sale at this little outlet we went in to have a quick chat with manager, Wimalagaran. According to Wimalagaran, Jubilee Emporium imports all their products from India and the items that are bought most during this season are sarees. He also stated that although the shop is open till 9.00 p.m. during this season and although there are many discounts there is no difference in sales. It is just like any other ordinary day.
"Though Avurudu is usually the season in which we have more sales, last year we had more sales for Ramazan. I think people don't have enough money to lavishly spend," shared Wimalagaran.
After the tiring walk through the sweltering streets of Pettah, our final stop was at the annual Avurudu consumer fair held at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Center (SLECC). More clothes, more shoes, more bags and more fancy items were what this sale was all about. Having been to this sale in previous years as well, what we noticed this year was the lack of shoppers at the fair.
Mekala from Ragama was busy with her shopping. "We like the place because goods are cheaper. There is a good enough variety to choose from. Because of the unique place it is held, they mostly cater to the office-going crowd and their budget. I make it a point to come here every April and December where we get good products for reasonable prices."
While a variety of goods were sold at SLECC, it was impossible to overlook Jaya Sri Bites. Needs for the season are different and not everybody celebrates the same way. Even though the name does not hint about products like these, N. Balasooriya had all kinds of traditional food. Cashew Helapa and Aggala seemed to be in full demand. She has been selling at the same exhibition for two years now. "We are still starting the sales, it is too early to say whether the sales are good or not. But December sales were good. This time we do not know," Balasooriya said. The country gets ready for its season of festivals and everybody seems to have found their own way of contributing to the seasonal joy.
In conversation with Erangi Ranasinghe of Dil Fashion who has put up a stall at this sale, we came to understand that this sale too was lacking business in comparison to the previous Avurudus. "I feel like this sale has not been marketed and advertised properly as there hasn't been much of a crowd yet. It's mostly the office crowds that come during their lunch time and quickly glance through all the available stalls. I own a shop as well and I've been a part of this consumer fair for the past ten years but I have more sales at my store than here although everything that is sold here is sold at a discounted price," shared Ranasinghe.
The lack of shoppers and the lack of business was quite a surprise to us as Avurudu is indeed the time that we as Lankan's go all out with selling and buying. With a few more days left for Avurudu we secretly hope that the shopping spark ignites in all the diehard shopaholics as the Avurudu madness is a Lankan thing that we cannot miss out this Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Despite the chaos on the streets, the heat and the traffic of course, the Avurudu shopping scene is something that we all enjoy and thus we hope the Avurudu spirit will be kept alive this year and in the coming years as well.
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