The volume of customers have also increased, compared to the initial days after markets reopened following the countrywide shutdown due to the pandemic
Shopping malls and markets across the capital are starting to get back to their usual as employees are rejoining their workplaces amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The volume of customers have also increased, compared to the initial days after markets reopened following the countrywide shutdown due to the pandemic.
"People are now visiting malls to buy necessary items. There are no window shoppers this time due to the pandemic, but business is starting to pick up," said MA Hannan Azad, president of Bashundhara City Shopping Mall Shop Owners Association.
“Close to 95% sellers and employees have returned to their workplaces. Since early September, sales have increased by 50%,” he claimed.
“Considering the health risk of the employees and the shoppers, our markets remained closed for a long time. The rent for most shops were waived for two months due to lack of sales. But since we are a developing country, it is difficult to survive without work. Employees have therefore started working again and consumers are also beginning to visit markets,” Hannan added.
Most of the malls and markets were closed due to the countrywide shutdown after March 26. They reopened in limited capacity on May 10 to cushion the economic blow dealt by the pandemic, just before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Most shop employees left for their villages and many lost their jobs as shop owners could not continue to pay their wages regularly.
Md Motin, employee of New Azmeri Thai Glass Center at Panthapath, returned to Dhaka after four months from his village in Lakshmipur.
He did not receive his wages for those four months as the shop remained closed.
“As our products are used in building constructions, our sale depends on the real estate sector. For the last five months, everything was closed. I joined last month, but received only half my wages for this month," he lamented.
Din Islam Apu, a sales executive of retail fashion brand KAY KRAFT at Aziz Super Market, usually works six days a week, but usually gets paid for his day-off on Tuesday as well.
Due to the pandemic, he worked the same schedule but did not receive any salary for his seventh day as the fashion industry was going through a severe financial crisis.
"The pandemic has reduced my wages. Earlier the company used to hire two new sales executives ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. But this time, only my colleague and I had to handle it. Customer turnout was also very low. Business has picked up recently as we are offering up to 50% discount on our products to attract customers," he remarked.
Rahim Uddin, a shop owner at Polwel Super Market in the capital's Naya Paltan area, said he was unable to pay five of his employee's wages for months due to the pandemic. He had to let go of three of them as his shop remained closed since late March.
"As everything is now returning to normal, I can rehire them as business in my shop is picking up," he beamed.
President of Bangladesh Shop Owners Association Helal Uddin said shopping malls were financially hit the most during the pandemic.
"Around 20-30% shops remain closed and 10-15% employees of the markets lost their jobs. We do not know how long the pandemic will remain. This damage may increase more in future. But now we have to focus on picking up our sales," he suggested.
Khalid Mahmood Khan, founder of Kay Kraft and an executive committee member of the Fashion Entrepreneurs Association of Bangladesh (FEAB), said: “As our sales are slow, it is difficult to sustain the business. Expenses such as shop rent and utility bills are huge. This is the time to keep everyone’s job safe instead of sacking. To deal with this crisis, we reduced the duty hours of our employees so that they do not lose their jobs and can get at least minimum salaries.”
Shop owners of Jamuna Future Park, Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, Mouchak Market, New Market and Police Plaza Concord echoed similar sentiments.