Mangaluru: Although presenting a teddy bear to your loved-one during Valentine’s Day is a romantic thing, but there is nothing wrong in presenting it also during Christmas time-and for that matter there are couple of street vendors around here who sell varieties of these plush toys much cheaper than what you find them in gift shops or shopping malls. It is found that an increasing number of localites are buying soft toys from roadside sellers, giving a cold shoulder to the costly ones available in malls and hi-end gift shops.
One such street vendor whom I ran into was Mukesh from Rajasthan, who has been doing brisk business selling soft toys on the road-side of Mangaluru-Kerala highway-he has set up his shop in front of fisheries college-Yekkur.. He says when Valentine’s Day comes around-that’s the time of the year, when lovelorn couples get busy showering each other with umpteen gifts – love message cards, exotic flowers, choco goodies, cuddly teddies – basically anything to make their partner go awww. But these gifts can be very heavy on the pocket, especially for the college students, who have to keep a check on their monthly budget. So, instead of buying gift items from hi-end malls and shopping complexes, the student community from Derlakatte educational destination are playing it smart by purchasing soft toys from roadside vendors.
The soft toys being sold by these street sellers have become hugely popular with these students for their low cost and many varieties. During the V-Day week and also during Christmas time, it has surely set the cash registers ringing for these roadside sellers. Mukesh says, “The sales have been exceptionally good for me during V-Day week and I’m expecting it to improve further in the coming Christmas days also. We have a variety of reasonably-priced soft toys, which one won’t find in gift shops. You can get teddy bears ranging from Rs 50, 100 to 2500, depending on the size. The biggest ones, of approximately 4-5ft in size, are priced between Rs 2000 and Rs 3000, and you’ll get these at a whopping Rs 10,000-15,000 at the malls. That’s the reason I have more youngsters from the educational institutions in Derlakatte coming to me instead of going to the gift shops. Mall mein lene jayenge toh bahut costly padega, aur hamare yahan price kaafi kam hai.”
Okay, now these soft toys might not be of A-grade quality, but the roadside sellers say they have their own set of dedicated customers, ranging from college students to housewives to even people belonging to the elite group of people. “We offer our stuff at 50% lower rates than the branded ones. And our sales are the highest in the month of February, and okay during Christmas. Ladke log bade waale teddy bears le jaate hain. Ladies also buy them for their children. Haan, we can’t compare the quality of our stuff to that of the branded ones, but we still have people who drive cars stopping by to purchase our products.”
On the other hand, these roadside sellers seem to have created ripples in the city’s soft-toy market, with the sales of plush malls and gift shops dipping because of them! Speaking to mangalorean.com, Charlie, a gift shop owner in one of the malls in the city, informs, “Because of these street vendors selling toys at very cheap prices, it has affected our sales. We don’t have many soft-toy buyers most of the time. Customers go looking for these street vendors- at our outlet, the teddy bears are available at a price range starting from Rs 500 (small) and above. Very few people are buying them.” When I told him about the high sales of the roadside vendors, he added, “We sell only branded products. They are made of premium quality fabric and are non-infectious too. They can’t be substituted to the roadside ones. The branded soft toys are expensive and a life-size teddy costs around Rs 10,000. Not everyone will be ready to pay such a huge amount for a soft toy and that’s the reason we are experiencing a dip in the sales.”
Rohit, a medical student from KS Hegde Medical College-Derlakatte who was buying a soft-toy for his girl-friend said,”Thank God, at least yahan toh teddy bears are pocket-friendly. I had gone to a mall to buy a present for my girlfriend and changed my mind after seeing the high price tags. But here at this street vendor, itni saari variety available hai and they cost so much lesser than the branded ones. I got a bada wala teddy for my girlfriend, I’m sure she’ll love it. Hope it will be her best Christmas gift ever”
Alina, yet another college student, who was purchasing a teddy from Mukesh said,”These soft toys are equally appealing and are as good as the branded ones. Then why should I pay five times more money if I’m getting the same thing here at such a reasonable cost?” “Due to these students my business is booming. Wasie toh hamare yahan price fixed hai, but we slash our price rate further for the youngsters. Aaj kal in logon ki wajah se hi hamara sabse zyada profit ho raha hai, isiliye hum bhi inhe discount de dete hain.”
So, I guess all those love struck youngsters are well prepared to show their largesse this Christmas season, by giving a huge teddy bear to their partners! Ram Singh, an engineering graduate, says, “My girlfriend loves soft toys and every year I gift her one on V-Day-but this year, I’m going to give her a giant teddy that I picked at an unbelievably low price from this street vendor for Christmas. Cheryl being my batchmate, I am planning to propose to her. Abhi toh impress karna hai. Jitna bada teddy bear hoga, woh utna zyada khush hogi. And I’m not even sure whether she’ll accept my proposal or not. So why waste money and buy a costly present, when I can get an attractive soft toy for her at a much lesser cost? Sab kuch sochna padta hai na.”
Anyways, this Christmas if your looking for a soft-toy to gift it to your sweet-heart or your kids or stock it under your Christmas tree, take a drive on Mangaluru-Kerala, and meet Mukesh , the street vendor in front of Fisheries College-Yekkur. It will be worth your drive!