Traders have started displaying winter clothing lines at their shops and stalls, expecting the mercury to drop with the onset of November.
But sellers at the wholesale level are reporting a dearth of buyers so far in Dhaka’s traditionally large wholesale markets. Increased prices of clothing items, just like almost any other item, fears of an impending famine to go with a global recession in 2023, and an overall climate of economic uncertainty might be causing consumers to stay away.
Since October, wholesale traders in the capital have stocked their shops and warehouses with winter clothes.
They are worried about business this year due to various fears, including the late onset of winter, political uncertainty in the country, and global economic instability.
Visiting different wholesale shops in Bangabazar, City Plaza, Zakir Plaza, Nagar Plaza, Dhaka Trade Center, Gulshan, and Banani DNCC markets, UNB found them filled with different items of winter clothing, but the same couldn’t be said for buyers.
Traders are spending a lot of idle time waiting for buyers.
Rabiul Alam, a trader at Bangabazar, told UNB that business remains uncertain with the higher cost of inputs and the lower presence of customers in the markets.
He said the price of blankets is a little high compared to last year, due to the increased cost of raw materials, and other costs.
Usually, by this time of year, the Bangabazar traders are busy selling blankets and other gear meant to withstand the rigours of winter. But this year the winter is arriving late and the market is witnessing a ‘down’ season. Most of them were busy preparing blanket-packed cartons to be sent to different districts by courier.
Apart from foreign blankets mainly from China and Korea, locally-made blankets are usually in high demand in the market.
Ali Ahmed has been selling winter clothes for 15 years in Bangabazar. According to him, prices are around 30 percent higher on average this year due to the higher production costs, adding that the soaring rate of the US dollar against the taka is contributing to that.
He said the wholesale price of different varieties of foreign blankets ranges from Tk 3000 to Tk 8500 per piece, depending on their quality.
On the other hand, home-grown blankets range between Tk 500 to Tk 3000 per piece, depending on quality. Business is better selling blankets than clothing items like jackets and jumpers this year.
Like wholesalers, the retailers at different shopping malls are also doing better business selling blankets so far this year.
Retail traders at Baitul Mokarram Mosque Market said that the prices of imported blankets this year are higher than previous years.
Hazi Akbar Ali, a merchant at the market, is selling many different kinds of blankets, from small locally-made ones at Tk 4000, to large, high-quality ones made in Korea for Tk 10,000.
The price range at which he sold blankets last year was between Tk 3,500 and Tk 6,000, he said.
The owner of Ambia Garments of New Market, Yakub Ali, said, "I have been doing business for 22 years. Never seen such a bad situation. Last year, despite keeping 10 employees, we could not tackle the number of customers during busy periods. We did not get time for eating and praying!”
When UNB visited his shop this year, it was almost empty, and even the neighbouring stores in that corner of New Market were almost deserted.
Previously, even before winter came, the shop had to be well-stocked in advance. He drew customers from ‘all 64 districts of the country’ visiting Dhaka, students or migrants going abroad, apart from regular customers.
“This year I am sitting with four employees. Till mid-day on Saturday (when UNB was there), not a single person came to even see the goods,” Ali laments.
He is now left hoping the weather changes.
“I hope sales can increase if the winter gets harsher. Even then, I don't know how much I can recover my losses from the time lost without sales. I hope it lasts longer too,” he states wistfully, before getting ready to lead his staff in the afternoon prayer.