Superstores bleed over political chaos
Superstores are in distress as the frequent strikes and blockades are taking a toll on business.
“Our businesses are about to collapse. Very few customers come to the superstores due to the ongoing unrest,” said Md Zakir Hossain, general secretary of Bangladesh Supermarket Owners’ Association.
Overall superstore sales dropped in recent times. For small chain stores, the fall is even steeper: around 95 percent, Hossain said.
“Customers are not coming to the stores for security reasons,” said Sabbir Hasan Nasir, executive director of ACI Logistics Ltd that operates 43 Shwapno-branded stores and a number of franchises across Bangladesh. Shwapno is also experiencing a decline in sales.
“Customers’ confidence has eroded significantly amid political turbulence. People are buying their necessities from their neighbourhood stores, rather than going to the superstores.”
Sales at Rahimafrooz Superstores Ltd that operates Agora declined by more than 35 percent, said Ashraful Hasan, the company’s marketing manager.
The middle class, the target customers of Agora, cannot come to the stores in their cars for fear of violence. “As a result, our daily sales have fallen,” Hasan said.
On a normal day, Agora that has 13 outlets used to record sales worth around Tk 70 lakh. The amount dropped close to Tk 40 lakh, Hasan said.
“Product unavailability is another reason behind the drop in sales. Our suppliers cannot deliver goods on time for the blockades and strikes,” the Rahimafrooz Superstores official said.
Shaheen Khan, chief operating officer of Meena Bazar, shared a similar story. “We are losing 30-40 percent of sales every day due to the unrest.”
Meena Bazar that operates eighteen outlets across Bangladesh sources vegetables directly from farmers, said Khan. “We are facing a challenge in maintaining the supply of perishable goods due to the frequent blockades and strikes.”
At present, 24 companies operate more than 100 superstores across the country, according to the supermarket owners’ association.
Supermarkets account for around 2 percent of total sales in the country, which is around 10 percent in India, according to industry insiders.
Around 38,000 shops, including superstores, are now operating in Dhaka.
Their combined annual turnover stands at more than Tk 1,500 crore, with the government receiving around Tk 30 crore in value added taxes, according to data from the association.
Supermarket operators urged the main political parties to reach an immediate settlement and ensure a peaceful business environment.