Eid sales poised to surpass pre-pandemic levels
Broad smiles have finally returned to the faces of millions of Bangladesh's retailers as shoppers have flocked to markets to complete their Eid shopping since the beginning of Ramadan.
Shop owners have fought an uphill battle to stay afloat since the pandemic hit the country two years ago as the outbreak of the lethal pathogen ate up their sales in all four Eid festivals that were celebrated during the period.
But sales have rebounded in style since the fasting month began and it will continue before Eid-ul-Fitr, which accounts for more than a third of lifestyle retail sales in Bangladesh. This has extended a much-needed respite to the businesses, which suffered huge losses throughout the pandemic.
Mahdi Hossain, who works at a bank, accompanied his wife and sons to Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, the country's premier shopping centre, on Wednesday as the family was out to carry out Eid shopping.
"This is the first time I have been out shopping at a mall without feeling any fear in the last two years. I am really feeling happy."
Zeenat Rehenuma, a homemaker who lives in the capital's New Eskaton area, has already completed Eid shopping for her son, husband and in-laws.
Rifat Jahan, a residence of Mirpur, began Eid shopping last Friday, buying clothes for her, son and relatives from an outlet of a lifestyle brand, which was full of shoppers.
She plans to go shopping today as well.
In Dhaka and the rest of the country, retailers, from clothing shops to lifestyle brands to electric appliance sellers, all have reported strong sales.
This correspondent went to the Aarong's outlet in Mirpur 1 three times in the first half of Ramadan and was only able to enter the outlet once because of the crowd.
"An unprecedented number of people are participating in the shopping and people from all income groups are buying products," said Mohammad Ashraful Alam, chief executive officer of the lifestyle brand.
According to him, the sales of Aarong, which has 25 outlets, will surpass the pre-pandemic Eid-ul-Fitr sales of 2019 by more than 40 per cent.
The turnover in Aarong's newly launched half a dozen outlets has also been phenomenal.
"We have opened several shops outside Dhaka and the response has been huge. I think people have long been waiting to do shopping in a relaxed manner."
The sales recovery came as coronavirus caseloads have dropped sharply. No death linked to the virus was reported yesterday.
SM Khaled, managing director of retail clothing brand SaRa Lifestyle, said the demand from all segments of customers is high.
SaRa was launched with only one shop in 2018 and it has now nine outlets.
Sales in all of the shops have been tremendous, according to Khaled.
"Sales have risen almost five times compared to the pre-pandemic Eid-ul-Fitr."
According to Md Raihan Kabir, head of marketing at Yellow, a lifestyle brand owned by Beximco, the shopping trend this season is different.
"People started hitting our outlets before Ramadan, and most of the customers are, in fact, buying."
"Customers are coming in groups, with friends and family members. The shopping has turned into a festival."
Although the physical presence of customers is strong, Aarong, SaRa and Yellow all have seen a good response from their online customers as well.
"Online shopping surged during the pandemic as people were confined indoor. So, we had thought it would see a decline this year. But surprisingly online sales have surpassed our expectations," said Kabir.
Arfanul Hoque, head of retail business at Bata Shoe Company Bangladesh, said they are expecting double-digit growth in sales compared to 2019 as customers are thronging their outlets across the country.
According to him, the average amount spent by shoppers in each transaction is rising.
The average basket value was approximately Tk 1,500 and it has reached around Tk 1,700, he added.
Electronics and home appliance brands are also witnessing strong sales in the days to Eid, which accounts for about 15 per cent of their annual revenue.
"The sales of almost all items such as TVs, refrigerators, ACs, washing machines, ovens, blenders, and juicers are in line with our expectations," said Saikat Azad, category head at Transcom Electronics Ltd.
"The customers' sentiment has matched the pre-pandemic levels," he said, adding that high-value items such as large-size refrigerators are surprisingly high in demand.
Walton is posting higher sales thanks to the improvement in the coronavirus situation. The company is recording a turnover that is higher than the pre-crisis level.
Walton refrigerator is the top-selling product this Eid.
Eid is the peak season for businesses in Bangladesh, especially for electronics, home appliances and technology products, said Mohammad Firoj Alam, chief marketing officer at Walton.
Mobile phone sales are, however, low, said Sheikh Md Milon, owner of Zara Gadget Store in the Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, on Wednesday.
"I hope the sales will accelerate in the last 10 days of Ramadan."
Street-based clothing vendors, whose customers mainly come from the low-income groups, say they are not still sure whether they would be able to clock higher sales since their client base is under pressure for a rise in inflation.
Selim Mia sells products on the footpath in Mirpur 2. He says sales have been good on Fridays in Ramadan.
"I hope people will resume buying clothing items from next Friday."
The shopping sentiment among the customers outside Dhaka is also high.
"Customers are coming in droves and most of them are also buying," said Rubel Ahmed, a salesperson at Walkar Footwear on the Kali Bari Road in the northeastern district of Habiganj.
The sales of Comfort Zone, a sports accessories outlet in Zindabazar of Sylhet, have been good.
"I have never thought that the sales of sports items would be good," said Fahim Mir, manager of the shop.
Shaheen Ahmed, the owner of clothing brand Anjans, says although they are witnessing increased sales, the turnover is yet to exceed the pre-pandemic level.
Sales are expected to accelerate as Eid nears as happened in the past, as salaried employees and workers will get their salaries and bonuses before the holiday begins.