Corona Impact: Local businesses lose steam as panicked customers stay home

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This shrinking consumer spending has raised macroeconomic concerns such as fall in production of consumer goods, which in turn may push up unemployment

On Fridays, cloth trader Al Mamun in his shop at Shah Ali Shopping Complex at Mirpur 10 in the capital has to attend a huge crowd of customers and on these days he makes the most of his business. 

But the last Friday was the other way around as the turnout of customers as well as turnover both tumbled, coming down to almost 30% of what it was on the previous holiday. 

Like him, shop owners at other shopping complexes in the city saw a sudden slump in their business as people, panicked by coronavirus in the country, preferred not to go out and thus avoid making buys, which they can do without.  

This shrinking consumer spending has raised macroeconomic concerns such as fall in production of consumer goods, which in turn may push up unemployment. 

During visits to several markets in the capital, Dhaka Tribune witnessed a gloomy picture in terms of customer presence.     

Besides, hawkers and vendors on the streets also saw their sales go down sharply as less and less people ventured out.    

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, shop owners expressed concern over the impacts of this downturn in sales as it will hit the domestic economy hard, adversely affecting the GDP. 

“What the coronavirus means I don’t know, but it has had a huge impact on my business. Usually on holidays, there is rush of customer but it was almost zero last Friday,” Al Mamun told Dhaka Tribune. 

“Even during the political unrest, I did not see such a gloomy situation in terms of sales,” Mamun recalled. 

“If it continues, we will have to starve as we will fail to bear the expenses of business,” he feared.

Not only the small markets, the fear of virus has also had a crippling impact on the country’s posh shopping complex like Bashundhara City Shopping Complex.

“Sales of electronic gadgets, especially mobile handsets, have been falling for last few days as people have stopped visiting markets after the infection case of coronavirus in Bangladesh. Turnover has almost halved and it is gradually declining,” Md Rashed Bhuiyan, a sales executive of Oppo at Bashundhara City Shopping Complex, told Dhaka Tribune. 

“People have stopped going shopping due to coronavirus. As a result, sales of goods except essential commodities have seen sharp fall. It is a global situation, including   Bangladesh,” said Rezaul Islam Montu, vice-president of Bangladesh Dokan Malik Samity. 

Hawkers and street vendors also complained about drastic fall in their sales. 

“Before the virus came here, every day I used to earn Tk1,000 to Tk1,200. Now, it has come down to Tk500 to Tk600 a day,” Aminur Rahman, a hawker at Karwan Bazar, lamented, adding that the situation was going from bad to worse every day.  

Economists have also warned about the fallouts of coronavirus on the whole economy. 

“Consumer consumption is prime source of GDP. If there is a crash, it will hit the production capacity hard,” former World Bank Dhaka office lead economist Dr Zahid Hussain told Dhaka Tribune.  

“There is already supply side constraint, and if the constraint is also on the demand side, it will be very tough to meet the GDP target or retain the GDP growth,” said the economist.    

For the current fiscal year, the government has set a target to attain 8.2% GDP growth against the last year’s 8.15%.  

“Another concern is that there will be fall in consumer-oriented events such as marriage and other social gatherings, which contribute to domestic consumption,” said Zahid.