The city’s markets witnessed the usual rush on the day before Eid on Tuesday, though several businesses reported lower sales than previous years.
The roads around Liberty Market, Fortress Stadium, Pace Shopping Centre, Panorama, Karim Block, Moon Market and Anarkali were gridlocked with traffic on Monday night and Tuesday night. Loudspeakers placed outside shopping centres played music, creating a festive atmosphere. Business was also very good for restaurants.
However, plazas on Main Boulevard had fewer customers. And many shopkeepers complained that though there were lots of people around, most of them were not there to shop but to soak up the atmosphere. Meanwhile, many ATM machines around the city ran out of cash.
Shoe shops, children’s clothing stores and tailors said they did good business with little change from last year. But sales of readymade clothing, jewellery, wrist watches and cloth were down from last year. Most shop owners blamed poor security and the general poor state of the economy for the slow sales.
Waseem, the owner of Fashion Centre in Liberty Market, said that the profit margin for his cloth store had fallen amidst a rise in costs because tailors had raised their rates and a fall in demand because people had cut back spending. He said that sales had come to almost a complete standstill over the last week as tailors had stopped taking orders for new Eid clothes by then. Rizwan, who runs a wrist watch shop, said business was down 40 per cent from last year.
Muhammad Latif, manager of Pot Pourri in Liberty, said that the store did roughly the same amount of business as last year. Asad, who has a women’s shoes stall at Liberty Market, said sales were slightly below last year but still strong. “Most of my customers are women and they aren’t affected by the economic circumstances, they just buy what they want,” he said.
Muhammad Shabbir, manager of Love ‘N’ Care, a children’s clothing store, said that sales were as good as last year. “The children’s clothing business all around the city is okay,” he said.
Transporters did their usual trick of raising the fare on the day before Eid as the city’s bus stands thronged with people trying to return home for the holidays. Pakistan Railways is running four extra trains for the Eid rush, but it appeared not to be enough as train stations were also packed, despite an accident earlier in the day.
Asif Ali complained that he had been forced to pay Rs350 for a bus ticket to Multan when the actual fare was Rs233 according to the Lorry Adda rate list. “I complained at the counter and the officer sitting there said there were inspectors in the field checking for over-charging, but in the end I had to pay what the transporter was demanding because I have to get home before Eid,” he said.
Lorry Adda administrator Arshad Bhatti said that a special complaints counter had been set up and inspectors had fined transporters who were overcharging. “I know there is still overcharging going on,” he conceded. He said transporters demanding full fare from passengers who were travelling half the route did not constitute overcharging.
Musharraf Siraj, was at the City Railway Station trying to get a seat on a train to Rahim Yar Khan on Tuesday. “I’m not sure I made the right choice. There are so many people here,” he said, worried that he would not be able to get a ticket. “Four special trains is not enough.”
Light rain is expected in the city and its suburbs on Eid day, said Muhammad Ikram, Met Office deputy director. He said the rain was likely to fall in early morning and late night and the current spell of monsoon rain would continue intermittently until September 5-6.
Organisers of Eid congregations at Bagh-i-Jinnah, Model Town and Punjab University said they had set up tents for the morning prayers in case it rains.
Amir Siddique, a resident of Gulberg, said he hoped it didn’t rain as it would hinder his Eid plans. “It becomes difficult to drive as the roads become slippery so you can’t go out visiting relatives. I also want to take my kids to the park,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.