Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Ras Al Khaimah’s old town shops look to Eid to save businesses

Already affected by the growth in online sales, owners of small stores are taking a double hit this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak

Ali Mousa from India irons kandouras at his Malabar tailoring shop on Kuwaiti shopping street in Ras Al Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National
Ali Mousa from India irons kandouras at his Malabar tailoring shop on Kuwaiti shopping street in Ras Al Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National

The once-crowded shops on Ras Al Khaimah’s Kuwait Shopping Street are deserted.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, shoppers are avoiding venturing into the small alleys of what used to be the busiest and most popular shopping area in the old part of the city.

Neatly stacked abayas, colourful dresses and kanduras are left untouched on the shelves of stores that owners have opened in the hope of some last-minute Eid sales.

Traditionally, this time of the year is one of high sales for small retailers, with consumers purchasing food, gifts and clothes in the run-up to celebrating Eid with their family and friends. But not this year.

We are taking all the precautionary measures that the authorities have issued since the outbreak but people are avoiding coming to the market

Ali Mousa, Malabar Gents Tailoring and Textiles

Already affected by the growth in online sales, owners of small shops in the city’s old town are taking a double hit this year because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Eid shopping season usually starts from the beginning of Ramadan, runs through Eid Al Fitr and ends after about three months with Eid Al Adha.

Kuwait Shopping Street has been a favourite for locals and residents to pick up toys, perfumes and new outfits for the whole family, at reasonable prices.

This has been a part of residents’ Eid traditions for decades.

“This year is different, everything is different and we will suffer a lot if the situation remains the same,” said Ali Mousa, a 53-year-old Indian tailor and salesman at Malabar Gents Tailoring and Textiles, one of the city’s oldest tailoring shops.

“I have been working here in the shop for more than 15 years and this is the first time our sales have dropped more than 60 per cent during the Eid season.

Asim Atay of Al Farasha Abaya and Shaila garment shop waits patiently for customers. Pawan Singh / The National
Asim Atay of Al Farasha Abaya and Shaila garment shop waits patiently for customers. Pawan Singh / The National

“We used to stop taking orders in the second week of Ramadan [due to excessive demand] but now, we barely receive orders,” he said. Unlike in the past, he can now return finished orders within three days.

Mr Mousa, who mainly designs kanduras for men and children, said their prices have attracted shoppers but the fear of the virus is keeping them away.

“We are taking all the precautionary measures that the authorities have issued since the outbreak but people are avoiding coming to the market,” he said.

“We used to have three tailors at the shop but now it’s just me because there is no workload.”

Another tailor on the same street said that he opens his small shop only if he receives an order from his regular customers.

Imran Khan from Pakistan works at Zahrat Al Banafsaj garments shop. Pawan Singh / The National
Imran Khan from Pakistan works at Zahrat Al Banafsaj garments shop. Pawan Singh / The National

“I opened today because one of my customers called and needed an Abaya,” said Asim Atay, a 22-year-old Afghan tailor and salesman at Al Farasha Abayas.

“Four tailors used to work here but two got stuck in their country and could not come back and the other two are home because we do not have a lot of orders.

“The shop used to get busy after the first ten days of Ramadan but now there are no customers. Why should we open and add more expenses?

“We still need to pay salaries, rent and utilities so closing and only taking phone orders is the best solution for now until things change.”

Giving gifts to loved ones is an integral part of Eid celebrations but owners of gift shops tell a similar tale of low sales.

Noor Mohammed, co-owner of Al Ansaf gift shop, said sales nosedived after February.

Gold prices are high and only few customers are coming to the shop

Mohammed Iqbal, Ruby Jewellery

He now hopes to make some money during the Eid season to pay the salaries of his employees and cover basic expenses.

“Sales are still low and people are afraid to go out and do shopping,” said the 45-year-old Pakistani who has been working in the UAE for about 31 years.

“I have six employees and I’m paying salaries out of my pocket now.

“I’m praying to God now as the situation is not in our hands.”

It is a double whammy for the gold jewellers, with precious metal prices reaching their highest level and the coronavirus keeping shoppers away.

“Gold prices are high and only a few customers are coming to the shop,” said Mohammed Iqbal, a 46-year-old Indian salesman at Ruby Jewellery.

Mohammed Iqbal of Ruby Jewellers says he has never witnessed such a drop in sales. Pawan Singh / The National
Mohammed Iqbal of Ruby Jewellers says he has never witnessed such a drop in sales. Pawan Singh / The National

“I have been in the business for 12 years and this is the first time we have witnessed such a drop in sales, especially during Eid, but we hope it won’t last long.”

Among the few shoppers looking for a bargain was Umm Rashid Al Nuaimi, a 49-year-old Emirati mother of five.

She was out to pick up some traditional embroidered dresses for herself and her daughters.

“I usually spend two to three hours at the market with my daughters looking for good deals and good quality outfits but today I only spent 15 minutes at one shop. I picked up three dresses very quickly and am leaving now,” Mrs Al Nuaimi said.

“Shopping is an important part of Eid that we will miss this year.”

Mrs Al Nuaimi said the pandemic has dampened the festive spirit of Eid Al Fitr but she hopes for a normal Eid Al Adha.

“We enjoy preparing for Eid and the children love it but this time we will not be able to visit family members and invite them over,” she said.

“But we will still celebrate it at home with the children. I will make them help me prepare Eid sweets and we will wear new outfits, exchange gifts and give eidiya to children.”

The first day of Eid Al Fitr is determined after sighting the crescent moon that indicates the start of the month of Shawwal.

Updated: May 17, 2020 10:33 AM

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