In India, Consumers Stop Shopping Because of the Economy

After boom times, many Indians now worry about big debts for those new cars, TVs, and other purchases.

A general view of a shopping area in Bangalore, India.

A shopping area in Bangalore, India.

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Better-off Indians won't be embracing an austere lifestyle very soon, says Sudeep Chabbra, the mall manager of Emporio, a luxury mall that opened in New Delhi in August. On three expansive floors, Emporio houses high-end luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Dior, Jimmy Choo, and Chopard. Its glass doors swing open into large oval atriums festooned with crystal chandeliers, fountains, and fittings of burnished wood and brass. Despite the slow down, says Chabbra, "the reception to Emporio has been pretty good."

Malls like Emporio are catering to India's upper middle class segment and a rapidly expanding millionaire base. But for now, the lower segment of its growing middle class is reportedly deferring purchases, and financial companies report a drop in loan applications. The consulting firm KPMG, which tracks spending patterns, reports that sales of products such as cars and consumer electronics—the symbols of Indian middle class aspirations—have dropped more than 15 percent since August.

Inside the swanky Select Citywalk Mall in New Delhi, Sunanda Rao, a 32-year-old opera singer, is spending her evening loading up some holiday gifts for her family. She has her eye on a chestnut-colored corduroy shirt for her husband. After learning the price, though, she hesitates. Her fingers brush past the crisp 500-rupee ($10) notes stacked in her fat wallet. "Maybe next time," she says, looking up at the salesman, and exits the store.

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