Tough times for transport hub traders

Larkin Sentral bus terminal in Johor Baru looks deserted with very few customers.

TRADERS at Larkin Sentral bus terminal are struggling to stay afloat following the government’s decision on imposing a movement control order nationwide except for Sarawak until Feb 4.

Mahanoum Bahulu Malaya proprietor Shahrilnizam Mohamed said business at the integrated transport terminal was adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the first MCO last March.

“If the situation prolongs until the end of the year, most of us have no choice but to wind up, ’’ he said when met at the terminal.

Shahrilnizam, who has been operating an outlet selling kuih bahulu for the past 25 years, said his business was down by 90%.

He said the situation had not improved much during the conditional MCO on May 4, and the recovery MCO on June 10 until Aug 31, which was extended until Dec 31.

“We hope the state government will discuss with the terminal’s management on reducing the rental as our income has plummeted, ” he added.

Shahrilnizam: Traders may have no choice but to wind up. Shahrilnizam: Traders may have no choice but to wind up.

Naavien Convenience Store assistant R. Santosh said business used to be good before borders between Malaysia and Singapore were closed on March 18 for the first MCO.

He said apart from express bus passengers, the place would also be busy with Singaporeans, especially on weekends with many taking buses and taxis from the republic to the terminal.

“Prior to the pandemic, we opened at 5am to cater to locals travelling to Singapore for work but now we only operate from 7am to 8pm, ’’ said Santosh.

Bangta Trading proprietor Irene Wong said the place would normally start getting busier a few weeks before Chinese New Year with people buying bus tickets to travel to their hometowns.

“It is so quiet now and the express buses are lying idle in the parking lots, ’’ she said, adding that her business was down by 80% since March as 70% of customers for her costume jewellery and fashion accessories were Singaporeans.

Newbase Solution Sdn Bhd sales assistant Yazid Othman said the outlet selling menswear now depended on locals and foreign workers in Johor Baru.

“Every day is a slow day for us since the first MCO, ’’ he said, adding that he only made enough to pay his two workers’ salaries but not the monthly rental.

Johor investment entrepreneur development, cooperative and human resource committee chairman Datuk Mohd Izhar Ahmad said the state government was looking at ways to help about 150 traders at the terminal, including through a reduction in rent.

He said Larkin Sentral management had previously given a rental rebate of up to 50% to essential businesses and 100% to non-essential ones from March 18 to April 30.

Wong says before borders between Singapore and Malaysia were closed, 70% of her customers were Singaporeans.Wong says before borders between Singapore and Malaysia were closed, 70% of her customers were Singaporeans.

A rental rebate of between 30% and 50% was also given for May and June, depending on the type of business.

From June to September, the management had started collecting the rental in full.

There are about 250 tenants at Larkin Sentral, including traders at the market located adjacent to the terminal building.

Most of the outlets comprise apparel, footwear, food and beverage, confectionery, hair dressing salon, money changer, mobile phone and convenience stores.

There are about 60 companies operating express bus services connecting Johor Baru with cities and towns in the peninsula at the terminal and to Singapore and Hat Yai in Thailand as well as six stage bus operators plying Johor Baru and other districts in the state.

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