Electric shock

Express April 23, 2010

KARACHI: After the initial skepticism about the government’s decision that shops must close at 8 pm, shopkeepers have realised that the government really means it this time.

This rather grim realisation has caused a wave of anxiety as shopkeepers find it hard to choose between profits and energy conservation. “The majority of our customers shop at night and do not want to come in the sweltering summer heat,” said salesperson Fareeda, 34, who works at Radio City, Park Towers. As her colleague switches the computer on, the peon cleans the floor and a Sean Paul single plays in the background but aside from these sounds there is an eerie silence in the shop at 4 pm. And this is the time when they open for business.

It doesn’t make sense for them to open any earlier. “We open the shop at this time as 80 per cent of our customers visit us from 8 pm to 11 pm,” said Fareeda. “I don’t understand why the rich lot would leave their air-conditioned houses and break their backs in the scorching heat to buy a CD.” Shops can only close down an hour earlier and not more than that, she said while objecting to the decision, adding that the government will have to take it back. Park Towers Director Marketing Zehra told The Express Tribune that the decision would have serious repercussions for the shopkeepers in the mall, “but there is no way out.”

“We have called a meeting of the committee that deals with the matters of the mall and will decide about the timings accordingly keeping the government’s timings in mind,” she said. “Customers will gradually get used to the new timings and will adjust their schedules in the absence of any other option,” Zara hoped, adding that the shopkeepers would definitely suffer for the first two weeks. Muhammad Shahzad, a garment shopkeeper at the Forum mall, was angry, saying that the government is snatching their bread and butter from their mouths.

“Summer is around the corner and hardly anyone will come shopping in the day time,” he went on to say, adding that most of the people of Karachi get off from work after 6 pm, and the new timings will leave very little time for shopping. “If this continues, shopkeepers would have to pack up and go [abroad].” Adeeba Qazi, a student of the Institute of Business Administration who was buying perfume at Park Towers said, “After this decision is implemented, I won’t be able to go shopping in the morning or in the afternoon [as I have classes].

My mother will have to do it for me,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. “Well, there is no way out and we still need to shop. I’m sure my wife will find some way and take out time as she will never compromise on that, even in the heat,” said Ilyas Muhammad Khan, a corporate manager.