COVID-19 dampens Goa’s raincoat, umbrella market

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The revival of small businesses dependent on monsoons is yet to start, finds out Shoma Patnaik

Demand for raincoats, umbrellas, rainy shoes and monsoon related products have taken a hit this year due to the ongoing pandemic. 

The onset of monsoons each year usually results in a seasonal spurt in sale of rainy wear and shoes. But with residents feeling the pinch of the lockdown business is low-key, according to shop owners.

“The monsoons have arrived on time and the rains are copious. We are seeing an increase of sales of raincoats and umbrellas. But it is nothing exceptional and volumes are definitely lower than previous year, says Milind Manerkar, proprietor, Manerkar Stores, Panaji.

The popular store that is usually crowded with customers is feeling absence of school kids sorely. “Usually at this time of the year all stationary and general stores are full of children as they gear up for the new academic year. Parents arrive with their children to buy the full gamut of rainy wear. New raincoat and umbrellas are the compulsory purchases by families. However with schools remaining shut for the new academic year we are seeing loss of customers,” says Manerkar.

He reveals that, residents are not buying anything for their kids. “They are waiting for schools to start. If the schools start after monsoons they will not buy. Purchases for school children account for about 25 per cent of sales,” reveals Manerkar.

The astute retailer points out that, with economic activities low-key residents are on cost cutting mode. “The hospitality industry and tourism is totally shut. There are no hotel employees going to work. With large scale job losses in the tourism sector and lay- offs in other industries  business is bound to be affected,” says Manerkar philosophically.

In Panaji market, small shop keepers are similarly pessimistic on prospects. Shop owner , Atish Naik says that, the pandemic is depressed customer sentiments. “Customers are fearful of contacting infection. Housewives are not willing to spend since most of them are sitting at home due to the lockdown. There is no motivation to go in for a new umbrella or shoe,” he says.

Naik adds that, arrival of latest consignment of umbrellas and shoes is affected due to the restriction placed on movement of goods. Latest designs from China have not arrived due to the lockdown, he reveals. 

The timely onset of monsoons is crucial for agriculture in the state and for farmers planting paddy crop. Besides farmers, monsoons are also important for the scores of small businesses selling rain shoes, slippers, plastic sheets, bag covers, food vendors, etc.

Monsoons are also busy time for the small garages dotting every locality as vehicles need maintenance work and rust proofing. This year with fewer residents going out to work, the pre-monsoon business for local garages is affected adversely. “Residents do not want to spend because of the pandemic and since they have cut down using their vehicle they are holding back from monsoon maintenance work,” says a garage owner. He says that, several garages have removed mechanics due to less business. “We cannot afford to keep extra hands,” he said.

Water proofing contractors are another segment that witness spurt in business during the monsoons. With the exodus of migrant labour from the state, waterproofing contractors said that they are facing shortage of workers even though there is no scarcity of work as residents need their services.