Khulna, Barishal traders pleased by customer turnout
Like other parts of the country, shops in the Khulna and Barishal divisions have become inundated with customers ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, the biggest religious festival in Bangladesh.
"Our sales began in earnest after the fifteenth day of Ramadan," said Akash Mahmud, a salesman at the Rang Bangladesh outlet in Khulna.
As Eid draws nearer, the number of daily customers has increased significantly.
"Many youths are coming to buy panjabis of different colours and range," he added.
Other than branded retail outlets or showrooms, roadside stalls and hawkers have also seen a steady uptick in business.
Currently, there are more than 500 hawkers and other small retailers operating in Khulna city with about 200 of them being seasonal occupations that depend on Eid sales.
Thanks to competitive prices and convenient locations, many of these roadside sellers are often busier than their large-scale counterparts.
"My store has been packed for the last few days and I am very pleased with sales so far," said Muhammad Mamun Hossain, the owner of Mamun Cloth Store.
On KDA Avenue of Khulna city, affluent locals were seen checking consumer electronics stores for big ticket items such as refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions and so on.
Masharof Hossain Babu, an agent of the regional Walton office, told The Daily Star that the demand for these products rises sharply ahead of Eid every year.
However, this year's sales are not up to previous levels.
"Our air conditioner sales are not good at the moment," he added.
Liakat Hossain Liton, president of Bagerhat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that sales have not reached the expected level as customers have become strict with their spending due to the economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19.
"We are still trying to recover from our losses of last year," Liton added.
Similarly, traders say that sales are at least 30 to 40 per cent lower than their pre-pandemic levels. According to them, this is because the restrictions on public movement and gatherings are preventing customers from turning up in higher numbers.
In Barishal town, Mrinalkanti Saha, vice president of the South Chawkbazar Businessmen's Association, said that there were about 50 wholesale shops in the region that sold products worth up to Tk 20 lakh just for Eid.
However, sales have almost halved amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
"It costs over Tk 1 crore a year to keep my 65 employees and much of that would come from Eid sales but that is not happening this year," he added.
Apparel items are always a hot item ahead of the religious festival with more than Tk 3-5 crore worth being sold in Chawkbazar each year.
Half of this amount would come from wholesale shipments to other districts but since there were no transportation facilities this time, sales have taken a serious hit, Saha said.
Saidur Rahman Shahin, owner of M Ali Cloth Store, said no new designs for dresses or other clothing were brought in this season.
Instead, they continue to offload previous stocks through online sales.
In the past, Tk 10 to 12 lakh of apparel products were sold daily during the seven-day lead up to Eid. Now though, the number has come down to just Tk 7 to 8 lakh.
"We don't expect more sales this time around and we're happy just to pay our staff," Shahin added.
A seller of Topten, a popular clothing brand, said that sales are going well even though no one is buying expensive clothes at the moment.
Saidur Rahman Rintu, president of the Barishal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said sales were a bit lower this year as long-distance and inter-district transport is closed.
To resolve the issue, he demanded the immediate reopening of such transport facilities.
He went on to say that a considerable number of people in Barishal division have been unable to conduct their Eid shopping due to financial constraints amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.