KARACHI: Traders across the country gave a dismal picture of Eid sales this year attributing it to squeezing purchasing power triggered by high food inflation, rising petroleum prices and utility bills while the rupee devaluation had made imported items much more expensive.
The country’s food inflation surged to 9.11 per cent in May as against 8.8pc in April.
They claimed that a number of buyers with their children either returned empty-handed after hearing the prices of various items like baby garments, shoes, imported jewellery etc, or compromised on buying low-quality ones.
While failing to meet their targets, many traders had also put up on sale their old stocks with discount to lure buyers.
It is hard to dig out real numbers of Eid sales as traders and even big business houses avoid giving actual data while no official figures are available.
All Pakistan Anjuman Tajiran Chairman Khawaja Suleman Siddiqui (who also represents its Southern Punjab wing) said people who used to buy three to four suits settled for one to two pieces, owing to rising cost of living.
He said sales have dropped by 30 per cent in Punjab markets, leaving traders in a quandary in meeting their targets.
Markazi Anjuman Tajiran Balochistan General Secretary Syed Abdul Qayyum Agha said sales are down by 30-40pc in various markets of the province. However, he did not hesitate in blaming greedy traders in pushing up prices artificially terming it unjustified especially in the holy month.
He said he had personally visited markets and stayed at some shops for two hours, looking at grim faces of parents who failed to buy baby garments after checking the high price tags.
According to Agha, traders had jacked up prices of baby suits to Rs1,000-1,100 from Rs600-700, leaving a margin for bargaining.
The rate of sweets has surged to Rs600 per kg from Rs450 ahead of Ramazan, followed by increase in biscuits prices to Rs 400 per kg from Rs300 per kg, the secretary said.
Markaze Tanzeem Tajiran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Sharafat Ali claimed 60pc decline in the sales of Eid items. He said the price of baby garments has surged by Rs150-250 per suit while the rates of imported garments had risen substantially.
All Pakistan Anjuman Tajiran Lahore Chapter’s General Secretary Razzak Babar said traders have put up on sales old stocks to meet targets and provide relief to low and middle-income groups.
“How can people buy local goods whose prices have gone up by 30-35pc from last year, followed by up to 50pc rise in imported items?” he questioned.
Razzak said “people are depressed and angry. They are avoiding excess shopping due to cash crunch and are buying only the necessary items.”
Anjuman Tajiran Faisalabad General Secretary Mehmood Alam Jutt said sales have plunged by 40pc this Eid as buyers restricted their shopping to only the necessities.
To avert any losses, shopkeepers have brought in their old stocks with discounts ranging from 10-50pc.
He claimed that prices of local brands have swelled by 40-50 per cent followed by 20-25 per cent in imported items.
All Karachi Tajir Itehad Chairman Atiq Mir said huge influx of people in the last 10 days of Ramazan proved artificial as there were more window shoppers than genuine buyers, thus bringing down overall sales in Karachi to Rs35bn from the target of Rs45-50bn.
He said buyers were perturbed over 20-25pc increase in sales of local items followed by 30-40pc jump in imported goods which hit the consumers’ buying power.
Mir said commodity traders, especially meat merchants and fruit sellers, broke all records of price hike, thus forcing consumers to buy low-priced Eid purchases.
He claimed that 40-50pc of finished products in various shops remained unsold and traders witnessed an overall drop of 30pc in sales this year. “People have avoided extra shopping and many parents have not made their own suits and prioritised their children first,” he added.
An artificial jewellery seller at Saima Pari Mall Hyderi said the rupee devaluation soared the price of simple imported earrings by Rs30-40 to Rs140-150 while high quality earrings now cost over Rs450-500, versus Rs 350.
A bangle seller at Anarkali Bazar FB Area said the price of bangles have increased by 10-20pc. “Our sales are down by 40-50pc over last year, compelling buyers to compromise on low-price items.”
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2019