We have no profits only heavy losses, say bazaar traders

Making ends meet: Saodah selling kuih at her stall in Bukit Melawati, which is her only source of income.

KUALA LUMPUR: The abrupt order to close the Ramadan bazaar at Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman here has left a very bitter taste among traders.

They lament having to shoulder steep losses due to unsold stock.

Amjad Ali Rahimatullah, 43, who sells traditional clothes, said stallholders dropped the prices of their goods significantly last Sunday in a mad rush to clear stock ahead of yesterday’s closure.

“I myself had to let go of my kurta shirts, which I normally price at around RM70 apiece for as low as RM10.

“I incurred heavy losses as I only just stocked up about 1,600 pieces of the shirt, but I only managed to sell about 100, ” said the father-of-four from Taman Melawati, Selangor.

He revealed that traders were questioning the government’s decision to close the bazaar at such short notice.

“We had complied strictly with the Covid-19 standard operating procedure. To date, there has been no cluster detected here, ” said Amjad.

On May 8, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that all bazaars in areas under the movement control order must cease operations effective Monday.

He said premises flagged by the Hotspots Identification for Dynamic Engagement system or HIDE also need to close for three days.

Another trader, Mohd Hazani Husin, 40, who forked out RM150,000 to do business this year, said he barely recouped his capital.

“There is no profit, only losses. Usually, business would peak during the last three days of Ramadan as that was the time when people would come out to shop, ” he said, adding that the traders were completely taken by surprise.

“We had a limited time to sell our goods, ” he said, adding that he reduced the price of his baju kurung from RM140 to about half to clear stock.

When contacted, Federal Hawkers and Petty Traders Association president Datuk Seri Rosli Sulaiman urged Kuala Lumpur City Hall to give a one-off aid to the traders.

“The last-minute closure has heavily impacted them as the last week is usually when they recoup most of their investment, ” he said.

In Selangor, Persatuan Peniaga Kelana Jaya vice-president Nur Sharizain Ahmad said the 150 traders at the Kelana Jaya Ramadan bazaar accepted the state government’s decision to close Ramadan bazaars in the six districts affected by the movement control order.

“In truth, many traders are also worried for their own health in light of the discovery of new Covid-19 variants, ” said Nur Sharizain.

The Kelana Jaya bazaar traders, who started operations on April 13, had adopted risk mitigation measures such as not overstocking.

“Based on experience from last year, we had decided not to buy in bulk. For example, instead of buying 100 chickens, we settled for 40 instead.

“Even though this meant higher cost, we are still spending less in terms of overall capital.

“Instead of hoping to be able to trade for the whole of Ramadan, the more experienced traders decided it was safer to take it on a day-by-day basis, ” Nur Sharizain said, adding that the Kelana Jaya trading community also had a social media page for online purchases, drawing upon the lessons of April 2020, when the first lockdown was announced.

Trader Siti Rohani Mazalan, who is manning her father’s satay stall at the bazaar, said although the volume of online sales was far lower compared to a physical stall, at least customers knew how to reach them.

“We can sell up to 300 sticks a day online. As most of our orders are within this area, we are doing the delivery ourselves, ” she said.

In Kampung Tengah Lembah, Gombak, lemang seller Mohd Arifin Zakaria is not allowing the closure of Ramadan bazaars to deter him.

“We run a family business – my five children together with their spouses. Even though we started to receive telephone orders, accepting customer payments through bank transfers and doing deliveries when we started in 1994, it was only at the start of the MCO that we saw the importance of online sales.

“Since then, two of my children have promoted our lemang aggressively on social media, ” he said.

In Kuala Selangor, kuih talam seller Saodah Abdul Karim said since she was not able to set up shop at the site next to Tesco, she had shifted to a roadside location near a housing estate in Bukit Melawati.

She lives in fear of being summoned by the council’s licensing department, but has no other choice.

“I need to make ends meet as my husband is a heart patient and requires money for medical expenses. There are not many customers now as people are afraid to come out.

“I earn just enough to cover household expenses, ” said Saodah, who is a recipient of a state-run welfare programme for mothers in the B40 group.

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