KARACHI: The shopping frenzy, witnessed across the country prior to Eidul Fitr every year, lost momentum in 2020 as many people preferred to make online purchases rather than visiting marketplaces in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

“In addition to taking human lives, the coronavirus has eaten away our Eid earnings as well,” remarked All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Atiq Mir while talking to The Express Tribune.

The government imposed a lockdown for over two months to stop the spread of Covid-19, which drastically reduced the purchasing power of people, who bought goods with limited capacity mainly for their children only.

He added that around 80% of purchases comprised clothes, shoes, purses and children toys as a considerable number of people went to markets as soon as the lockdown was relaxed.

According to Mir, prices of goods rose 22-25% despite the contraction in demand, which further hurt the buying power of consumers belonging to the middle and lower middle-income classes.

“Covid-19 is taking lives while also eating away our economy,” said Mir. “The losses borne on account of two months of lockdown could not be recovered even during the largest shopping season of the year.”

He added that much of the stock in most of the shops remained untouched and sales for some businesses went down 70% compared to the Eid season in the previous year.

He added that the buyers, who somehow managed to shop during the pandemic, were harassed by government authorities.

Even the merchandise offered on discounts in big markets could not attract buyers, which caused a major problem for the traders in paying their workers and wholesalers.

He, however, cherished that sales of locally produced goods soared this year as compared to imported goods, which could not be arranged due to the global lockdown.

Nevertheless, he regretted the lack of variety of locally produced merchandise because of the ban on inter-city travel, which restricted the flow of goods from other cities to Karachi.

“Readymade suits were sold in high quantities, hence tailors could not attract much business this time,” he said.

On the other hand, a source in the retail sector dealing in high-end apparels said his business venture not only witnessed a massive inflow of consumers from across Pakistan but also registered a twofold surge in sales compared to the previous year.

He pointed out that he did not expect such kind of extraordinary response this year keeping in view that buying power of the common man had shrunk due to the economic slowdown during the lockdown. Online shopping also rose before Eid as evidence showed that even elderly people resorted to goods buying via online platforms this year.

“Online shopping almost doubled on our app and increased further in Ramazan,” said Hysab Kytab CEO Veqar Islam. Small businesses also started using online platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook and OLX. Many brands reduced or waived delivery charges, which encouraged people to shop online.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2020.

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