Sharp drop in patron numbers

Too quiet: A mall in George Town with few customers browsing around the stalls. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

THE Covid-19 pandemic is not only a global health crisis but it has also severely affected the economy with many business premises now at risk of plunging into financial difficulties.

Most shop lots in shopping malls and coffee shops have reported a sharp decline in business since the conditional movement control order (MCO) came into force.

At a mobile phone accessories store in George Town, owner Daniel Lim, 50, said rows of retail stores in the mall have seen only a few customers.

“Some of the shops are closed now, as many are unable to sustain.

“There is no business and they cannot keep up with paying the rental. Some closed temporarily while others have closed for good.

“For us, we are just holding on and hoping that we can at least sustain for the next four weeks until things become better.

“Even right now, we are not earning much and have been topping off the rental on our own, ” he said when met at his store recently.

An apparel store worker, who wanted to be known only as Mary, 50, said they had seen very few customers since the start of the conditional MCO.

Saw preparing drinks at the coffee shop with many empty chairs in Komtar, Penang.Saw preparing drinks at the coffee shop with many empty chairs in Komtar, Penang.

“So far, those who roam the mall are those shopping for Deepavali.

“Otherwise, the place is empty and quiet all day long. No one is coming out and even if we have customers passing by, they would just look at things and not buy, ” she added.

Meanwhile, at a coffee shop in Komtar, hawkers are seeing a sharp decline in their business.

Hawker Angela Saw, 40, said they had not seen more than 20 customers within the last eight hours.

“We hawkers rely on working staff and shoppers in the area. Now that most of them are working from home, no one comes out to eat and the others are too scared to dine in.

“We are also not expecting many shoppers as well because people would not want to travel with roadblocks in place.

“For some who are still working, they are concerned about coming in groups as we only accept two per table for dine-in.

“They would rather order delivery and eat at their workplaces.

“As such, it is hard for the hawkers here to earn or even make a profit.

“Right now, all of us are trying very hard just to sustain.

“If the situation improves within the next four weeks, the hawkers may still survive but if the conditional MCO is extended, then we really do not know what to do.

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