Goa’s gold market loses shine

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With COVID-19 taking the glitter off from gold purchases the next couple of months look tough for local gold jewellers, finds out Shoma Patnaik

Coronavirus is taken the edge off Goan traditional love for gold. Pandemic woes and hardships caused by lockdown have put off residents from shopping and all types of costly purchases. 

Gold showrooms reopened in the state after a long break but with no positive consumer sentiments to speak of sales are poor. “Our business is almost down to nil,” said Pramit Raikar, president, Goa Gold Dealers Association frankly.  He added that, Gudi Padva, Akshaya Tritiya, Easter and the marriage season, all went by without a ripple in the local
market.

“The demand is very less. Shops are open for almost 10 days now but doing very little business. We are doing just five to 10 per cent of our usual business.”  The president of the gold retailers association says that, the gold market in the state was already down during the January-February months and the pandemic is made things worse for the trade.  He adds that, fear of catching infection is keeping people away from shops.

“The only silver lining is that the business is not vanished completely,” says Vikram  Verlekar, director, Ulhas Jewellers, Margao.  Verlekar says that, he was resigned to spending lonely hours in the showroom after reopening but things were not as bad as he feared. “The desire to purchase gold is not wiped off from people’s minds completely. There are some customers who are walking in and making enquiries. On some days the footfalls are slightly. I am doing 20- 30 per cent of my average sales,” he says cautiously.

He divulges that, jewellers are finding it difficult to survive with the meager level of sales. “The havoc caused by the deadly infection has affected our industry badly. The goldsmiths, viz. , the small artisans or the karigars have taken a hit. If the present situation continues they will be driven to dire straits,” believes Verlekar.

Like all other businesses gold retailers have overheads to meet during the ongoing lockdown. There are bank loans, running expenses, staff salaries, etc. which are going to be very difficult to pay these months.

Reflecting the distress in the economy some jewellers are reporting enquiries for sale of used gold from residents. “Some of my customers are asking whether they can sell their gold ornaments due to financial need,” said a jeweller.

With survival at stake, jewellers are removing staff. “New salespersons are being asked to leave as no showroom owner wants extra employees when there are no sales,” said a source.

“Several occasions have gone by for our industry. The current situation will not improve unless other sectors revive.  Jewellers are suffering but it is case-to-case. Some are suffering more than others. It all depends on how one conducts business,” says Raikar. 

He says that, the spike in price of gold is another reason why no one is thinking of buying precious ornaments.

“We had a terrible time when the lockdown was imposed in March 24. We did not even get time to padlock our stores properly. Luckily there were no untoward incidents and our goods inside the showroom remained safe,” says Verlekar.

He expects the market to revive slowly. Gradually people will get used to the presence of coronavirus. One can’t be in the lockdown mode forever and the situation will improve,” is Verlekar’s optimistic view.

Other jewellers reveal that, they have pending orders on hand from weddings that were cancelled due to the lockdown. Some customers have asked for a refund while, some have asked to hold on to the order when the wedding is announced again.

Goans love buying gold ornaments. There are many gold shops looking at the small size of the state. Goans purchases gold jewellery for sentimental value and also to bedeck themselves. Gold is also considered as security net for the future.