EID brings fortunes to many business segments. Both sale volumes and profit margins during peak Eid spending season partially cover for lean business patches on account of strikes, security concerns or political uncertainty.
The deep domestic market that gears every year to meet demands of all social strata is said to be now catching up with the global trend of online shopping as young urban population develops a taste for it. The fashion conscious youth from elite classes prefer to search for the right deals in upscale popular brands before hitting the road.
The record sale reports from markets across the country lifted the spirits of enterprising people. An informal random survey in multiple areas by this scribe confirmed general pickup in business activity ahead of Eid. The quantum of gain varied with the scale and the variety of business.
Some analysts believe that traders beat manufacturers in terms of total collective share in Eid economy. Others find the view deceptive. “The manufacturers in garments, footwear, accessories, home textiles, furnishing, toys, food products, grooming services, caterers, etc. all are doing booming business in the season”, commented a corporate leader.
Many seasonal setups in make-shift markets by petty investors had sprung up at this time of the year to cash on the business opportunity.
The actual quantum and cross comparison of the performance of different sectors supported by real time data is difficult to gather because a large chunk of the Eid business is not documented and cash dealings continue to dominate retail and wholesale sectors.
Besides local industry, benefits of shopping bonanza, a market of 180 million people, is shared by trading partners such as China, Indonesia, India, the UK,US and Malaysia.
China dominates others for its deeper footprint in the Pakistani market. Some reports show that some traders have started getting even Shalwar Qameez suits of synthetic dressing material stitched in bulk in China for Eid sale. India leads in artificial jewellery. Indonesian and Malaysian brands are popular in children wear. The US, UK brands in dresses, toiletries and accessories command loyalty amongst local rich people.
The growing awareness for quality and style and the purchasing power of consumers has intensified the competition for the money spent on Eid forcing suppliers to innovate and invest heavily on marketing for an edge over their equals.
However, the hike in demand surpassed expectations of suppliers of popular items in the current season. After disposing off the fresh Eid stocks many businesses hope to get a chance this year to clear their stores of old inventories.
“For us Eid arrived after four years. Each time over the past few years something horrible happened that chased buyers out of markets. Last year, the market underperformed with many businesses left to deal with problems of storing unsold stocks. God willing this year we will more than make up for the loss of last year”, Zahid Amin, a shopkeeper at Tariq Road dealing in children garments told Dawn in Karachi.
Haji Fazal Kadir Khan Sheerani, President of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, felt the seasonal spurt in sales can possibly not compensate for failings of governance in the country. He hails from Balochistan.
“Established businessmen are wrapping up and leaving the country for they feel risks to businesses are prohibitively high. I am happy for the retail growth, however, I consider it unsustainable if business environment fails to get the attention it deserves”, he told Dawn over telephone from Quetta.
The greater social interaction at Eidul Fitr perks up transport sector. All available modes of intra and inter-city transportation grab greater business in a suppliers market. “The programme finalised was after the announcement of holidays but seats are not available on trains. To get seats for all six family members together I had to buy bus tickets on a premium”, a salaried professional of Lahore intending to celebrate Eid with extended family in Multan revealed.
Pakistanis eat rich to celebrate. The confectionary sector and sweat merchants also do roaring business in Eid season. The fast food joints and restaurants cut their share of the pie as people take friends and families out for treats.
“I had to engage caterers for a mini Eid party for the immediate family as all decent restaurants were booked to capacity. I was told that if I wish they can put me on their waiting list with a promise to get place in case of cancellations”, Mrs Hina Bhatti, a middle aged home maker, commented when reached over telephone to discuss the issue.
The amusement industry (cinema, theatre, computer game arenas, etc.) make special arrangements to accommodate the Eid rush. Their share in the total Eid economy might not be significant but big enough to mobilise the sector.
“Our celebrations are not complete if we cannot picnic at sea and see movies at a cinema with my group of friends. I have saved Rs1000 that I will spend on outing on Eid”, Abid Baloch, a factory worker revealed.
Besides when people loosen purse strings they indulge. The fact that most people overspend during Eid binge is not refuted. They engage personal and professional grooming services. The beauty parlours and hair dressing saloons do roaring business and engage temporary workers to handle the business load.