The annual Colombo Shopping Festival is on at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) between the 16th and the 23rd of December. The Festival will run from 10 am to 10 pm with entrance tickets priced at Rs. 100.

In its 26th iteration, the Colombo Shopping Festival is the initiative of Aitken Spence Conventions & Exhibitions. Over 240 vendors will showcase their wares this year, with festival organisers expecting upto 80, 000 patrons.

Colourful lanterns at the feng shui stall

The Festival is a biannual event that is held both during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year holiday in April, and once again at the year-end, just before the Christmas holiday.

The entrance to the BMICH is lined with vehicles as crowds throng to reach the interior of the cavernous building that houses the grand sale.

Inside, people follow each other in long queues through the myriad stalls laden with goods and crafts of every kind.

A fair percentage of the stalls at the BMICH are laden with clothes ranging from as little as Rs. 150 to over Rs. 1,500. Cotton ‘Rolling Stone’ and the ‘Beatles’ t-shirts, crop tops, flowing skirts,  shirts, and more are to be seen hanging from the stalls.

A jolly ceramic Santa waves a cheery hello

Other stalls are replete with jewellery from Rs. 65 apiece to upward of Rs. 650 for the fancier ones. Tiny studs, long feathered earrings, woven arm bracelets, and polished rings are spread across the front of a stall.

Intricately embellished colourful sarees, leather bags, purses, shoes, wallets, walking sticks, dream-catchers and other curios fill the stalls. Mattresses, gardening tools, and home appliances such as TVs, rice cookers, irons, and water heaters are all available at the Festival for discounted prices.

Outside the hall, vendors sell outdoor furniture that include brightly-hued poly-cotton hammocks for just Rs, 2,000 and above. The place is dotted with food vendors selling hot dogs, popcorn, candy floss and cool refreshment to weary shoppers.

Printed sarees for discounted prices

Mostly seen at the Colombo Shopping Festival were families with young children in tow, but also present were the lone buyers and office workers popping in for a spot of shopping during a lunch break.

The Festival caters not only to the city crowd, but also to those from as far off as Maharagama and Homagama.

For the pre-Christmas shopper, the  Colombo Shopping Festival is a great place to visit, offering a wide range of potential gift items in one location. The Festival also draws shoppers seeking to cash in on a year-end deal of discounted items.

With the uncharacteristic rainy December weather, the Colombo Shopping Festival offers customers a place to shop indoors rather than braving the weather and the haggling of vendors outside.

For those who want to avoid the alternately dusty and wet streets of Pettah, the Colombo Shopping Festival seems to be a worthwhile option.

Cover: Gleaming, discounted eyewear