Diwali Shopping; Message to Consumers, From Consumers

October 11, 2022

Elegant dresses!
Smiles all around!

This undoubtedly signifies that it is almost Diwali time. The festival of lights, of happiness and of shopping. Yes, you read that right. Diwali brings one of the most awaited shopping hypes of the year. Now you must be all stoked up, ready to make the most of this season. But have you planned for your shopping? Planning is a must for a perfect shopping experience and avoiding last minute run-arounds and hassle.

This year’s Diwali will be extra special as consumers find themselves in a much more ‘normal’ situation after 2 years of restriction riddled Diwali. The Consumer Council of Fiji (CCoF) was out and about this week talking to consumers in the Central, Western and Northern Division to find out if they had already begun their Diwali preparations and what will they be mindful of whilst shopping.

Surprisingly, with only 24 days remaining for Diwali, majority (almost 70%) of the consumers have not started Diwali preparations and have indicated they will begin shopping and other preparations within the next two weeks. Whilst it is recommended to begin preparing for such festivities early, there is still adequate stretch to thoroughly plan and allocate enough time to responsibly do your shopping and other preparations. This being said, consumers must not leave their shopping and preparation to the last minute.

Why should consumers plan and shop NOW?

During such festive season, consumers normally leave their shopping for food, decorations and gifts till the last minute. The Consumer Council of Fiji strongly discourages such practices, as much as they can be avoided, so as to reduce the problems that may occur such as:
• Last minute shopping often leads to impulse shopping and therefore overspending;
• Consumers may become less vigilant and shop around less, hence doing less comparative shopping for good quality items at fair prices or even end up buying expired or near expiry products; and
• When consumers do last minute shopping online, they run the risk of not having their items delivered on time.

Furthermore, even when shopping early, consumers must be alert and ensure that they get the best deals and quality products. How can consumers do this? Let’s hear directly from consumers on the ground as to how they can shop responsibly.

What consumers are SAYING?
During the Council’s random survey and interview with consumers in major centers, they were asked how they can be assertive and ensure their rights are protected when out and about shopping. So, let’s hear what consumers had to say.

  1. Conduct comparative shopping
    Some assertive consumers have highlighted the need to be smart shoppers and not be lured by advertisements. This message was shared by Mr Nikhil Singh.
    “Comparing prices is essential before making a purchase. It helps consumers find good deals on the same item or find similar items at discounted prices,” said Mr Singh.
    Comparative shopping is a practice among consumers where a range of available suppliers are compared to identify the best deals. It is an evaluation of potential sellers to see which one is offering the best deal.
  1. Keep money safely
    A few consumers also highlighted that whilst shopping during this ‘busy’ time, people need to ensure that they keep their cash safely to avoid pick-pocketers.
    “We have heard and observed lots of cases whereby people are getting robbed in broad daylight. So, people need to be vigilant and avoid places and situations which may put their cash or even worse, their safety at risk,” – Mr Joe, Labasa.
  1. Do not overspend
    One of the first and foremost steps to smartly manage spending during Diwali is creating a budget.
    “Setting a budget limit means you have control of your money and expenditures. This Diwali, create a budget to help avoid overspending,” – Mrs Chand, Suva.
    The Council recommends that once a budget has been created, consumers must track their spending against the set budget. This ensures consumers are aware if they are meeting or exceeding their budget and allows them to make changes to their choices to adjust accordingly.
  1. Avoid borrowing cash
    Borrowing cash will only cost more in the long run. Remember, Diwali is about spending time with your loved ones and not about spending lavishly – do with what you have.
    “Diwali is about spending time with your loved ones and with those dear to our hearts. Hence, we must stop commercializing and enjoy the true spirit of Diwali,” – Navneet Chandra.
  1. Avoid impulse buying
    To increase their sales, all businesses will come up with offers to lure consumers. Many of these advertisements sometimes make it difficult for consumers to resist the temptation of shopping. It is important to avoid getting into such situations.
    “We must keep in mind that all our savings cannot be spent on one event. As consumers we need to have a healthy cash savings and ensure that we are fluid to respond to unexpected events,” – Ajeshni Lata, Suva.
  1. Check expiry dates
    Many consumers have highlighted the need to check expiry dates of products as at some point in time, they have been sold expired products.
    “As the demand of certain products are only high during this time and relatively low for the rest of the year, certain businesses may use this opportunity to get rid of products which has already expired or near to expiry. So, it really important for us to check expiry dates of each product we buy,” – Sangeeta Mala.
  1. Do not spend a lot on firecrackers
    Several consumers have stressed that fire crackers do brighten up our skies but is not mandatory so consumers should not feel obligated to purchase it. This money can instead be spent on something more useful.
    “There are a lot of different ways to celebrate Diwali, not just firecrackers which results in our money going up in smokes. People who do want to buy; should not splurge,” – Deepak Sharma, Samabula.
    The Council is also advising consumers to be cautious as some traders may try to get rid of old stock of fireworks. Consumers must exercise caution when selecting items to ensure it is safe for use.

The commitment and expectations from BUSINESS community!
Whilst consumers tend to drive the demand for different products during such festivities, businesses are the ones responding to this demand and sets a special ‘vibe’ in the shopping environment. Given the crucial role businesses play in Diwali celebrations, the Council reached out to the Suva Retailers Association to get their stance on the Diwali shopping hype and the plans which are in place.

The Associations’ President Mr Jitesh Patel says that given the return to some normalcy after the pandemic, they expect celebrations similar to that of pre-covid times.

“While we do anticipate a similar level of hype to pre-covid times we do recognise that this is also dependent on the shoppers and their own priorities. As always, we encourage our members (Association Members) to provide specials, deals and marketing activities that promote and celebrate the spirit of the season, while keeping in mind the needs of consumers,” said Mr Patel.

Mr Patel has also called on businesses to create an atmosphere which celebrates the true spirit of Diwali.
“As we have always done, retailers are encouraged to decorate their shops, have special deals or promotions for consumers and also in the spirit of Suva, to create an atmosphere that is fun and enjoyable for the entire family. We want it to be an entire shopping experience for families that come into the city to spend the day. Shopping should not be a task but a fun family experience,” added Mr Patel.

The president of the Association has also reminded businesses to operate ethically and up to the highest standards

“This has and will always be a priority for the association. We focus and promote the interests of both retailers and consumers; therefore, businesses need to operate at standards that adhere to the respective policies and regulations, at all times. Our members understand the important role that consumers play and thus their promotions or sales are reflective of their operations and business ethics. Members are also encouraged to reach out to their respective association reps or to the Consumer Council for clarification or should they need assistance,”

The Association has encouraged all consumers to join them in the spirit of Diwali and to come on down to Suva City for all your Diwali needs.

“The last 2 years have been challenging however, we have persevered and overcame many obstacles to reach this point and that needs to be celebrated. I understand that we still have ways to go but this time provides us with the opportunity to look back and recognize just how resilient we are,” added Mr Patel.

Message from the Council; Exercising Rights and Responsibilities
Consumers are strongly advised to exercise their rights and responsibilities while out shopping. Often, in the hype of Diwali shopping, consumers fail to exercise their responsibilities to choose products carefully and spend wisely. In order to be responsible consumers, we must always enquire about key aspects of any product that we purchase such as product guarantees, product quality, after sales service and return policy.

Furthermore, in the busy and festive atmosphere, many consumers also tend to misread advertisements while shopping causing unnecessary disappointment or at times, financial loss to the consumer. Therefore, consumers must properly read and understand sales advertisements as well as other vital information such as product information and promotions that are presented to them before making any purchase. This will ensure that consumers get the best quality products available in the market that meets their expectations.

By following these simple steps, you can enjoy the festival of lights as a responsible consumer.

Consumers who discover any unethical practices when out and about shopping and encouraged to report such matters to the Council by calling the toll-free number 155 or lodging their complaints via the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.