Most shop owners against reopening of markets

As the number of Covid-19 patients are increasing steadily, shop owners at different shopping malls across the country expressed concerns whether reopening of their shops would be a wise decision or not.

Although the number of death tolls from the pandemic is also increasing, the government has decided to reopen the shopping complexes in ‘limited scales’ from tomorrow, on condition of maintaining hygiene rules and social distancing.

Besides, the markets have to be closed by 4:00 pm and hand sanitizers need to be arranged for customers and salesmen. This requires additional capital, which would not have been required if we did not have corona infection.

Amid the fears and considering safety of both, customers and the salesmen, the authorities of the country’s two of the largest shopping malls, Basundhara City Shopping Complex and Jamuna Future Park, have decided not to reopen their businesses until the situation improves.

Talking to the concerned people, it has been known that the government’s instructions and conditions have to be followed as soon as shopping malls, markets and shops are opened. 

According to a research, most of the markets, bazaars and shopping malls in the capital have fewer space in the front and behind the display desks. 

Asked about this, Dilip, President of Gazi Super Market in the capital, said, “There is only one gate in the market. Customers and salesmen have to enter and exit the market through the same gate. In addition, the shops are too small, hardly accommodate two customers at a time. In such a situation it is not possible to maintain physical distance.”

As a result, there is no market for the required amount of space to maintain social distance as per the guidelines of the government.

Moreover, traders will have to pay salary and bonus to the employees as soon as they open their business establishment. 

The traders are also worried about whether there will be enough sales if they open shops or shopping mall or market with only 15 days left for the Eid festival.

Concerned traders said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people have left the capital and gone to the villages. Many of those who are there will not come to the market for fear of coronavirus. 

Many people across the country, including the capital, have become unemployed. Having been unemployed for a long time, the accumulated capital also ran out. So in such cases, many people may not consider shopping as they may have to save cash for the uncertain future.

Even if the business reopens, there will be no gathering of customers and hardly any buying and selling as expected. And if the sales are not as expected, there will be hardly any profit.

Babu, President of Capital’s Gauchia Market, said, “Two shops in the market were opened on Tuesday (May 5) on a trial basis. There was no trading throughout the day. No buyers came. On the other hand, there are no employees to work in the shop.”

He said that the employees had gone to village home as the market was closed, adding, they will not able to come as public transport was also closed.

Meanwhile, the authorities of Dhaka’s New Market are yet to take final decision, said Dhaka New Market Shop Owners’ Association Secretary Khairul Basher Shipon.

He said, “Traders across the country are quite hesitant about opening shops.”

In the interest of public safety, traders all over the country are hesitant about reopening markets. Likewise, in Dhaka, the authorities of Baitul Mukarram Market have decided not to reopen before Eid-ul-Fitr due to the coronavirus crisis. But there has been a mixed reaction among branded textile and apparel companies.

Baitul Mokaram Market Business Association General Secretary Dilip Roy, on Thursday, said, “The market will not be opened because of public health issues."

Meanwhile, the country's top fashion and lifestyle apparel company Aarong will remain open on a limited scale from May 10, subject to conditions. The company has decided to open 16 out of 21 outlets across the country. Ashraful Alam, chief operating officer of the company, confirmed the matter.

Bangladesh Shop Owners Association President Helal Uddin in a video statement said, “We will help our employees struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. I am urging the shop owners to pay employees their salaries on time and prevent the spread of novel coronavirus from adding to the economic woes of workers.”

The Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and Industry will hold a meeting with the leaders of the Business Unity Welfare Council. They will take a final decision regarding this on May 10 when all the leaders are present.

In a press release sent to the media on Thursday, President of Nayasarak Business Association Mahi Uddin Ahmed Selim and Hossain Ahmed said that shops will not be reopened before Eid.

Besides, most of the people might refrain from shopping in a large crowd. They may choose to shop online, they said.

Shamsul Alam, president of Al Hamra Shopping City Business Association, one of the mega shopping malls in Sylhet, said, “Most traders are against opening the market.”

Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel, Vice President of Sylhet Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, “It is better to keep the market closed.”

Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Abu Taher Shoaib said, “Most of the traders fear that due to the fear of coronavirus spread, customers will be reluctant to shop this year. Half of our salesmen are in favor of not reopening the markets. But still we could not take any concrete decision yet."

A press release signed by the General Secretary of Comilla Shop Owners Association Mohammad Atiq Ullah Khokon says that the association has taken this decision to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country. The press release said if the shopping malls are reopened, the coronavirus situation would deteriorate further.

Meanwhile, business leader of Chittagong have decided not to open most of the shopping centers in the city before Eid to prevent coronavirus infection.

Leaders of various markets and shopping mall business associations decided to close nine shopping centers and markets before Eid at a joint meeting on Friday. 

Authorities will not open Sanmar Ocean City, Mimi Super Market, Finlay Square, Afmi Plaza, Chittagong Shopping Complex, Kallol Super Market, Amin Center, Central Plaza and Khulshi Concord Town Center.

Asad Iftekhar, president of GEC's Sanmar Ocean City and Nasirabad's Finlay Square Shop Owners' Association told the media, “First of all, we are not prepared. Secondly, it is impossible to maintain social distance or health protection in markets. We have taken this decision from the life and social responsibility of ourselves and our workers.”