Popular shopping area losing its shine

Customers picking out baju kurung at Penang Bazaar located in the heart of bustling Penang Road in George Town. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

THE glory days of the 114-year-old Penang Bazaar in Penang Road, George Town, are numbered.

Tourists and locals alike used to throng the bazaar to get anything from groceries to second-hand books.

Holding on to the last glimpse of hope, traders at the bazaar are struggling due to poor business.

Trader A.S. Ooi, 62, who sells textile and tailor-made baju Melayu, said business was at all-time-low in her 40 years at the bazaar.

“I came here when I was still a student to help my brother who ran a business.

“During the bazaar’s heyday, all 96 stalls here were occupied by traders but now, there are only half left.

“I still remember the glorious days in the 1970s when the place was considered a ‘free trade zone’ then.

Ooi arranging the tailor-made baju Melayu at her stall which used to enjoy brisk sales during Hari Raya some 10 years ago.Ooi arranging the tailor-made baju Melayu at her stall which used to enjoy brisk sales during Hari Raya some 10 years ago.

“We used to enjoy brisk business during Hari Raya until about 10 years ago.

“Business has somehow deteriorated since then and was terribly affected this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“During the earlier MCO period, we experienced zero income for months.

“Some local tourists do visit the bazaar but many do not buy anything from us.

“When the recovery MCO period started, we shortened our operating hours from noon to 6pm, ” she said.

Trader Sintha Madar, 74, who sells batik textiles and clothes, said business had been extremely slow lately.

“I began trading here in 1985 and up to five to six years ago business was still good.

“However, due to the emergence of shopping malls and online shopping trends, business has been going downhill.

“Due to bad times now, many people are tight with money, ” said Sintha.

Mohd Hassan is considering going online to generate more income.Mohd Hassan is considering going online to generate more income.

Tailor Mohd Hassan Mohd Salim, 42, is considering going online with his business to generate more income.

“Sometimes, we have no business at all for weeks.

“Although in the previous years business was slow, we still managed to get by during the Hari Raya period.

“However due to the pandemic, business has dropped by more than 80%.

“Gone are the glorious times experienced by my grandfather and father.

“My grandfather started his business here in 1984.

“They used to get more than 50 tailoring, stitching and altering orders in a day, ” he added.

Originally a wooden structure, the bazaar was rebuilt in 1937 as a two-storey concrete building after the original facade was destroyed in a fire.

From the 1930s to 1950s, it even had an European cuisine restaurant on the first floor.

The early 1950s was a boom time, as the Korean War increased-demand for tin and rubber — then Malaya’s main exports.

The bazaar then was often packed to the brim until one could hardly walk.

Penang Bazaar had a facelift in 2000 and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006.

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Penang Bazaar , Penang Road , covid-19 , MCO , shopping


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