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Lockdown easing: E-tailers see demand rise, even in non-traditional categories

As the Indian economy sees more of unlocking, large e-commerce firms are witnessing a revival in demand across categories. While demand for work from home (WFH) products, consumer electronics, and personal care may reflect the new normal in current times, a spike in sales of immunity boosters, musical instruments, hobby items and gourmet food products, and the likes, have taken some of them by surprise.

Amazon India has seen sales growth in several categories, from WFH essentials to toys and a significant surge in demand and sales of dishwashers and vaccum cleaners.

UrbanBotanics, which sells beauty and personal care products, along with dumbbells, musical instruments and office chairs to be used at home, has witnessed huge growth as well, while Discount Bazaar India, a seller on Amazon India, has seen 3 times growth in sales of gourmet products.

“There is a certain change in demand patterns and it’s interesting to see spike in growth in certain unusual categories. Sellers are also coming up with creative products like cloth masks that match the shirts and reacting quickly to what customers want today,” said Gopal Pillai, vice president-seller services, Amazon India.

Large Indian e-commerce firms such as Amazon and Flipkart have stepped up support for their selves to ensure business continuity after the lockdowns hit operations of small and medium-sized businesses.

Walmart-owned Flipkart, which has seen a 9 times spike in the number of sellers and MSMEs resuming business last week compared to the first week of lockdown, said demand has doubled for mobile phones, tablets, laptops and televisions. It has witnessed an increase in searches for kitchen appliances including hand blenders, microwave ovens and induction cooktops, with higher demand from metro cities. With temperatures soaring across the country, Flipkart sellers have also been witnessing significant rise in demand for fans, air coolers and air conditioners.

“As people continue to maintain social distancing, fashion choices have become more functional. Inner-wear and lounge-wear are seeing an increased demand, with women’s sleepwear witnessing a very good growth,” a Flipkart spokesperson said.

Sale of non-essential products were allowed earlier in May, after nearly two months of lockdown when e-commerce firms were allowed to sell only essentials.

Since the government allowed delivery of non-essential items in all zones barring the ones under containment, Paytm Mall has seen a surge in searches and the sale of mobiles, masks, trimmers, laptops and other consumer electronics and a 1.5 times increase in sales as compared to March.

Besides personal grooming, consumer electronics and education-related stationery, kidswear and toy categories have also been doing well.

“…While there is pent-up demand due to the on-going lockdown, we believe that the overall trend of ordering online is going to remain strong due to social distancing norms. Many of our users are from tier-III and Bharat cities who are now ordering groceries as well as non-essentials routinely on our platform,” said a Paytm Mall spokesperson.

For e-commerce firm Snapdeal, demand in non-metro markets has grown faster and sales volumes are now 80% of pre-covid levels while in urban markets also sales have been growing and are now about 65% of pre-covid levels. More than 80% of orders have come from non-metros and the demand is highest from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

“…The growth of immunity boosters, though expected, was a surprise. This new sub-category has shown strong growth, week-on-week for the last 5 weeks,” said a Snapdeal spokesperson.

These include health supplements, traditional products like Chyawanprash, and products such as like fish oil, Moringa, amla juice, herbal teas, Brahmi tablets, karela and jamun juices, clove powder, and Ashwagandha. Traditional immunity boosting products such as dry ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric have also seen heavy offtake in the spices category, the spokesperson said.

There has also been a huge pick up in hobby items such as gardening supplies, knitting accessories and painting items, which have traditionally been niche categories. – Livemint

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