KARACHI: Although markets remain open till late night in Karachi, shopkeepers are complaining of depressed sales this year as compared to the previous year as floods devastation, high food inflation, increase in clothes prices and uncertain law and order situation have kept the buyers away from markets.
Only on Friday, amid last minute shopping, shopkeepers complained that sales had been down by 30 per cent as compared to last year due to falling buying sentiment owing to floods.
Some traders said many NGOs and rich had also been purchasing average to medium priced clothes for flood victims. Sales by this way could have been high if the urban population would have purchased clothes and readymade garments for the flood hit.
Moreover, after surging cost of living, individuals now prefer purchasing only one suit as compared to two to three a few years back, said a shopkeeper.
When asked why the Cooperative Market is closing down after 2.30am daily, if there is dearth of buyers, he said traders actually wait for buyers to turn up.
Shopkeepers have acquired a huge quantity of readymade garments, so they have to sit late night to get some recovery and make payments to the up-country parties, he added.
Markets like Tariq Road, Hyderi, Cooperative Market, Saddar, Bahadurabad, etc., are witnessing buyers’ arrival after 10pm, and they stay there till 2 to 3am. This had been happening since 10th of Ramazan, but traders said huge rush of buyers does not reflect a true picture of the sales as they were more window shoppers.
In absence of any official or private sector data of daily and monthly sales, traders usually give unrealistic sale picture, especially on Eid.
Saddar Alliance of Market Association (SAMA) president Shaikh Mohammad Feroz said sales had been down by 30 per cent as compared to last year owing to falling buying sentiment among people who have watched disturbing scenes of flood devastation.
He said blasts, violence and high food inflation are other reasons for laggard sales.
He said clothes prices had also gone up sharply. For example, an average shalwar qameez (purchased for poor for zakat purpose) is now priced at Rs500-600 as compared to Rs300-350 last year. A good quality shalwar-qameez now carries a price tag of Rs1,000 as against Rs700 last year.
A fancy kurta (excluding shalwar) now sells at Rs500 as compared to Rs300 last year. He said shopkeepers at the Cooperative Market Saddar, who had purchased clothes for kurta-shalwar at Rs30-34 per metre from Faisalabad last year, have procured it at Rs72 per metre this year. A good quality fabric price for shalwar kameez from Faisalabad has risen to Rs100-110 as compared to Rs55-60 per metre last year.
Abdul Samad Khan, senior vice president of the association, said because of rising cost of living, consumers have become more selective and they purchase only required items rather than buying extra items, as they do not have any surplus cash in their hands.
He claimed that 70 per cent buyers (from Regal to Zainab Market) had been absent this year.
Convenor, Supreme Council of Traders, Imran Saeed Baghpati, said Eid sales have fallen 70 per cent this year.
He added that despite opening of bazaars by 2am to 3 am after 20th of Ramazan, actual sale concludes by 1am, while traders sit in anticipation of buyers’ arrival.
However, he said slow turnover of buyers can be gauged from the fact that police check-post and camps at Bahadurabad were set up after 20th of Ramazan instead of first week last year.
He said that markets also lack buyers from the interior of Sindh.
Director Orient Textile Limited Rafiq Ibrahim said that increase in local and global yarn and cotton prices had pushed up cotton based fabric prices by 25-30 per cent in the last one year.
He said overall sales has been slow this year owing to high food inflation while many people were opting to stay at home owing to lawlessness.
He added that the sales in three to four big cities of the country may be termed quite satisfactory, but floods and bad infrastructure have hit the shopkeepers in interior of Sindh and the Punjab.
He was of the view that many youngsters had come forward for providing clothes and garments to the flood affected people at camps in the city.
Bonanza Garments director Hanif Bilwani said sales have dropped by 15 to 20 per cent, but this decline in sale can be termed normal keeping in view the post-flood situation, food price hike and lawlessness. He said sales are depressed in the cities near flood affected areas.
He was of the view that buyers had turned towards markets after Sept 1 and during the last three to four days, sales were quite better.
Qari Zulfiqar, Manager of Benger Garments in Rawalpindi, said that sales are down by 40 per cent while prices have risen by 10 to 15 per cent during the last one year.