KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — It may be better than 2020, but traders piling their goods for Aidilftri said their sales across the board during this festive season were still low as the country heads into another lockdown for the third time.
Textile traders at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur are seeing at least 50 per cent less shoppers compared to pre-Covid-19 days.
“Even though the government has allowed economic sectors to continue the public are still afraid to go out,” said Yus Ezwan Abdul Rahim whose been running a small stall currently beside Muaz wholesale Emporium since 1988.
“We tried to go online in 2020, when there was zero sales, but it's not as easy when you don’t know a thing about it. It definitely caught us by surprise.”
Yus said before the latest nationwide movement control order (MCO) 3.0 when it was only in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, there were still plenty of customers buying their Raya clothes for themselves and their families. But once the MCO was called again he saw very few customers.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t even made RM10 today,” he said when met.
Just a few days ahead of Hari Raya, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced a shock MCO nationwide that left many reeling.
For 27-year-old clothes trader Muhammad Taufik, the sudden announcement made by the government in ordering them to close down overnight has caused him tens of thousands of ringgit in losses.
Taufik has had a stall at the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman bazaar for a decade. He said apart from not allowing them to operate until after midnight like before they are asked to close at 10pm.
“Problem is a lot of people come to shop after tarawih prayers, so that’s after 10pm all the way until after 12am.
“Now we’re asked to close the whole stall, suddenly, overnight, whereas the stores just next to us on the adjacent street can open. Doesn’t seem fair,” Taufik lamented as he busily packed his items and was seen loading them up into boxes with his staff.
Shahira Aulia, who works with Taufik, told Malay Mail many of the stall owners at the bazaar broke down in tears when they heard the news.
They had invested a lot of money in buying produce and raw materials while some do their own handmade crafts and had stocked up since last year only to have their one chance of making a good income taken from them with the shutdown.
Shahira said the first four days they opened they didn’t make any profits. It is usually in the last three days when sales spike up as a lot of tourists would frequent the bazaars from afternoon till Raya morning.
Not to mention the number of people allowed in the bazaars are limited at a time and that causes very slow traffic resulting in very low sales.
Sadly as they had to close down since the area was deemed a hotspot they cannot make their money back and have to spend more to keep the items in storage.
“Many were devastated, so much crying and sadness the past few days. It would’ve been nice if we could have known a little earlier,” Shahira said.
“In a year we open only once so many invest a lot in it knowing the money they make can last them and their families for a while.
“Now they have to find alternative means but to be honest it’s not going to be easy. People are struggling and online isn’t going to work for everyone.
“Guys like us, it's about the physical sales, people coming to the store have a chat with us and then negotiate and then buy,” she said.
The same situation goes for one small vendor who wished to be known as Iman. Iman has a tiny lot opposite Gulati’s that he rents from the government.
Iman said he only gets sales late at night and due to the pandemic his stocks have depleted.
“I don’t have a variety of items. Like for example I have this snowcap but not black. There’s no stock. People stopped making these things since no one’s buying.
“I can’t sell a thing now as I have to close at 10pm. This is the heart of Kuala Lumpur and since no one’s going out it’s tough,” he said.
Lemang sales picking up in 2021
Malay Mail also spoke to sellers of lemang, a delicacy made with glutinous rice and coconut milk steamed inside bamboo, to be served with rendang during Aidilfitri.
All of them said in 2020 there were no sales as the pandemic and lockdown hit during Raya. They did not take any orders as they could not deliver them nor hire the staff to work.
But this year sales have picked up with some interesting habits from the customers.
“I had a guy who comes every year to me and this time he calls and says he wants 2,000 sticks. I was surprised at first and asked him if he’s okay? I know he likes my lemang but that was a lot.
“Then he told me he was buying for the entire kampung,” said Mohd Kamal Jamale, who owns and runs Lemang Corner Ori in Taman Dato Harun.
“Hard to travel now since the MCO hit again and so he said he’ll buy it all in one shot and take it back. As for my shop I haven’t been able to fulfill a lot of orders as I do not have the raw materials to do so.”
Kamal said since travel restrictions were in place he had difficulty sourcing the bamboo for cooking as he had to go to a jungle across his district.
Kamal usually makes around 15,000 lemang sticks of all sizes per day pre-Covid-19 but now it is about half of that.
Kamal like many others opens his lemang stall twice a year and online sales do not work even if they have regulars. He said it’s a seasonal thing and people also buy his beef and chicken rendang as well.
The same goes for the owner of Lemang 12 in Taman Medan, Mohd Jan Husin who runs his stall with his kids. Each has a role to play in lemang making, although Jan admitted that none of them knew how to switch the business to online.
“Actually the situation now is better than in 2020 but some challenges faced are finding the people to work.
“Then you have the customers who want the order at a specific time since they cannot travel easily due to the restrictions. Some only have a limited window of opportunity to get to us and want the lemang ready at a certain time.
“This is difficult because not only is the heat important in the cooking, the elements play a part. For example it takes about two to three hours to cook a big stick. What if it rains? Then it’ll take longer.
“The inability to guarantee that person the sale at that time is a challenge,” said Jan who sells five sizes of lemang from S to XXL with prices ranging from RM14 to RM22.
For smaller lemang vendor Hafiz, who runs Memang Lemang Hafiz at Bulatan Puchong Permai since 1998, he tried to go with the delivery services but stock shortages played a part in it.
Hafiz told Malay Mail that at times there were no coconuts available for them to make their home made santan, or coconut milk, which makes their lemang stand out.
Hafiz however said he is seeing good volume of sales. Compared to the other two, Hafiz stall is smaller and he finds his lemang usually gets sold out.
“We didn’t think to go online as we decided to open the stall earlier since there are restrictions in place. Instead some customers would place their orders with us the night before and come pickup at 2pm.
“Not only that, if we did delivery then during day one of Raya we definitely would not be able to make the delivery time. Reason being is we use around four to five kitchens to make the lemang and on Raya night we won’t be able to make the deliveries.”
The MCO necessitates all activities to shut down by 10pm and no one should be outside unless for emergencies.
Hafiz and family would stay up all night to make the lemang from the eve until the morning so they can be bought and delivered on the first two days of Raya.
“We never celebrate Hari Raya on the first and second days. We’re always working,” said Hafiz, who with his wife also sell fruits including durians at various markets during the non-festive season.
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