The colourful rows of dolls arranged on either side of the streets that greeted families every year, have been replaced with smaller and more subdued displays, as merchants share that sale of dolls this year has dipped due to the pandemic.
“Sales this year has gone down drastically, almost by half, compared to last year. Many people feel that they have to keep one new idol in their golu, so we have a few people coming by. Either they pick up one, or they take a small set of four to five pieces,” said one merchant.
In anticipation of weak sales amid the COVID-19 threat, merchants reveal that not only have they purchased less stock to sell but also that suppliers have provided them with lesser pieces. This was done as many expected online purchases of idols to go up with customers being wary of stepping outside. “We usually get batches of idols every day during Navarathri. This year, we’ve taken only one and will take another in a few days based on sales. Most of our sales are coming from locals in the area. One of the largest avenues that we’ve lost out on is foreign sales, where people pick up dolls to send to family members living abroad,” said Geetha, a third-generation merchant with a shop in Mylapore.
The situation is not all bleak, as merchants say that some regular customers, curated over many years of business, have been in touch with them for delivery.
“There is an old woman who buys from me every year. Last year, she had taken my number, and she called me a few days ago asking if I could drop off some dolls at her house. She’s old and cannot step out, so I immediately agreed. I think this is how the future is going to be,” said Geetha.