Traders struggling to make ends meet

A nightlife of the traders in the Batu Ferringhi night market. (September 23,2020). - LIM BENG TATT/The Star

WHAT was once a bustling stretch of stalls along the famed Batu Ferringhi tourism belt in Penang is now devoid of people and activity, with traders only opening their business on ad hoc basis.

A walk along the one-kilometre stretch recently showed that most of the traders were barely surviving, with many of the shops and stalls remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are experiencing an 80% drop in business as foreign tourists are no longer coming here and making ends meet has become an arduous task for us, ” said 32-year-old Mohd Taufiq Huzzaman who sells sports equipment and clothing at one of the 60 stalls along the stretch.

“We don’t open our business every day anymore because there are no customers.

“I have to pay a rental of RM1,500 a month. I need to make RM200 in sale each day to cover my expenses.

“However, now I am dependent on my wife who works in a private hospital to handle household expenses. If this situation persists for another month or two, I will have to close shop, ” he lamented.

Lee Teck Leong, 53, who sells souvenir items and art pieces, said it was more important for people to have food on the table than to buy souvenirs.

“There are no more foreign tourists who used to buy my products while domestic tourists mainly come here to eat in the restaurants.

“Some avoid coming here because of the rise in Covid-19 cases in Kedah and Penang.

“There used to be many traders here who made good business selling bags, ornaments and souvenirs, but they have since closed shop, ” said Lee.

Techinee, 57, a Thai national married to a local who has been selling clothes along the stretch for the past 10 years, said she was depending on foreign tourists’ market previously.

“My business has suffered a 70% drop because locals do not buy the clothing that I sell here.

“It looks like a ghost town here at times with so many of the shops and stalls closed, ” Techinee said.

She said the relocation of the stalls away from the main road was one of the reasons why people did not want to patronise the stalls.

“When the stalls were along the main road, there was movement of people along the stretch, but now people do not want to come in, ” she said.

Venessa Ho, who sells T-shirts, souvenirs and decorative ornaments, said the closing of several hotels including a renowned one along Batu Ferringhi was another contributing factor to the decline of their business.

“Every other week, one or two stalls are closing for good.

“I have the biggest shop in this stretch and I am struggling to do decent business.

“The smaller ones will not be able to sustain anymore if this situation continues.

“We hope the situation will improve by end of the year, ” she said.

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