Once the winter comes in, the mannequins in shopping malls get new warm clothes. All kinds of people crowd different markets to buy newly designed trendy hoodies, woolen sweaters, leather jackets, winter blazers, and suits, etc. The story is not quite the same in this winter. The mannequins did get dressed up with the winter clothes, but the shopping crowd is not there this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the sellers are facing huge financial losses this year.
Clothing sales in Bangladesh peak during religious festival like Eid and during winter season, but the pandemic has made it an exception this winter with much less sales of clothing.
Due to the pandemic, the school-going kids are not buying new sweaters or warm clothes like the previous years, as they now have online classes right at their home. And it is the same with the students of high schools, colleges, and universities.
After visiting a few shops at New Market, one of the largest markets in Dhaka, the writer managed to gain some insights. The sellers shared the challenges they are facing as well as the misfortunes due to the pandemic. Md Noor Hossain, the owner of Quality Fashion and an experienced businessman doing clothing business for the last 18 years, said, “When the winter started, we saw a ray of hope as the customers were coming amid the pandemic to buy winter clothes. We all had one belief that the pandemic would go by December 2020 and we would be able to get back to our regular lives in the new year. So, we stored a lot of clothes… but alas, sales are not going on as we expected. We are again facing losses.”
E-commerce sites and online businesses have witnessed a booming trend during the pandemic. Nevertheless, to some, it is not a good experience and they preferred to do business offline even amid this pandemic.
Raju (pseudonym), a young seller at New Style Zone, said that previously he used to run an online business. But the setup and ways of doing business online and offline are not the same. He said, “I had started online business along with my friends, but it was very competitive and sales were not that easy.
“Moreover, we had to take care of huge inventories, phone calls from the customers, delivery issues, returns, etc - which were a big hassle for us. Most of us did not have the expertise, facilities, and investment required for running an online business properly,” the 21-year-old seller continued.
“We also couldn’t hire professionals or agencies because that requires huge budget.
“But now that we are selling offline at our stores, we are doing well. Here, tasks are rather easier and we are used to this. But, if things deteriorate further, we might need to change the setup and move online.”
Many other sellers expressed opinions quite similar to his. Though some of them currently want to move online, they are still in a dilemma about this due to the technical barriers and lack of sales expertise in digital media.
However, if they had a helping hand with tech and online sales expertise, they might not take a second to let the dilemma go and opt for shifting their business online, keeping pace with the new digital world.
Syed Sadat Hasan is currently pursuing his undergraduate in BBA at BRAC Business School (BRAC University). He can be reached at [email protected]