Gift retailers Archies, Fern N Petals hit hard by pandemic

Hoping for gift of a turning tide with New Year

Business

December 30, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Gift retailers Archies, Fern N Petals hit hard by pandemic

Even though Archies has tried to keep pace with the changing times, the era of the Internet marked the onset of a steady decline

With people locked indoors and hesitant to exchange gifts, specialist gift retailers struggle to survive.

Greeting cards were an expression of love and passion, primarily among the teenagers and the youth. Archies was the torchbearer of exchanging hushed greetings between lovers in India.

In 1987, Archies inaugurated its first concept store in Kamla Nagar, Delhi and pumped by popular demand, it had opened its 100th outlet in 1993. By early 2000s, Archies had started selling its products online. But the business was not profitable and Archies shut it down only to re-open it in 2008. While the company has tried to keep pace with the changing times, the era of the Internet marked the onset of a steady decline.

Ferns N Petals was established in 1994 to cater to the growing demand for flowers for special occasions. The first store was opened at South Extension in New Delhi, but shut the following year. Archies also stepped into the e-realm by introducing e-greeting cards. However, increasing preference for social media among the younger generations killed the sales.

Ferns N Petals

The sales of Ferns N Petals has been down by 50 pc because of lockdown

Ferns N Petals, the largest flower retailer in India, is also struggling with sales this year. In the financial year 2019-20, the retailer reported a turnover of INR 500 million. However, this year, thanks to the pandemic, it has seen a dramatic fall in revenues and could have put paid to the company’s target of a turnover of INR 1 billion in the next three years through innovation. “Sales have been 50 pc down this year, only because of the lockdown,” says Jagjeet Singh, owner of Ferns N Petals at South Extension, in South Delhi.

While occasions like Friendship Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day are synonymous with students buying gifts for their friends, 2020 has changed everything. At an Archies store, Diwali gifts were still lying on the shelf at the end of December.

“We have only made a sale of 40 pc this year compared to last year,” says Sarvesh Yadav, owner of Archies, South Extension, New Delhi. “The schools and colleges are shut. Students do not visit the stores anymore and it has affected us drastically.” At PVR Saket, also in South Delhi, the Archies store has incurred a huge loss this year. “The sale is only 40-45 pc of the normal level this year,” says Narendra who works at the store. “We had a good crowd on Christmas, but the last two-three days have slowed down the sales again,” says Narendra. The falling sales reflect on the company’s balance sheet. In December quarter 2019, Archies as a whole reported a net loss of INR 50.6 million as against a profit of INR 9.6 million in the same quarter in 2018. In March 2020, Archies reported a 24 pc decline in sales on a quarterly basis.

Although the pandemic has muffled the ritual of exchanging gifts, these businesses are expecting a good sale for the upcoming Valentine’s Day in February. Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day are the events most awaited as they always usher a good sale. “On every Valentine’s, we record a 10 pc increase in sales on a yearly basis. So, we really look forward to next year to offset the losses we incurred this year,” says Jagjeet Singh of Ferns & Petals.

But the situation at some outlets of Archies looks more challenging. “By the current trend, we do not expect much on Valentine’s Day. New Year’s sales have not brought much hope,” says Yadav. Though the sales for the New Year are rather slow, the next few days would be a good indication of what 2021 would hold for specialist gift retailers in the country.

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