Open for business, but where are the customers?

Traders at the Masjid India Bazaar on Jalan Melayu in Kuala Lumpur, usually bustling with activity, have no choice but to close their stalls since they have no customers now.

PETALING JAYA: Traders are complaining about a lack of business because of lower pedestrian and tourist traffic under the reinstated Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in the Klang Valley, which came into effect on Oct 13.

A trader at the Masjid India Bazaar in Kuala Lumpur said the whole area – usually crowded with pedestrians due to its strategic location near the Masjid Jamek LRT station – is nothing short of a ghost town since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

This was especially true after the surge in cases in September, he said.

“Day by day my business is decreasing. So many traders are also opting to just close down their stalls seeing as there are no visitors at the Masjid India Bazaar any more,” he told FMT.

“This is made worse by the Covid-19 situation that is becoming uncontrollable, on top of the uncertain economy.”

He said these circumstances had discouraged people from visiting the bazaar and other shopping or commercial centres in the area.

“I feel that even if the local council or associations come up with good proposals for the traders, these will be of no benefit or use to us, nor will they be relevant anymore as the situation with Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur is already really bad. There is no turning back,” he said.

He said he did not bother opening his stall yesterday. He sells knick-knacks such as sunglasses and spectacles at his location in the centre of the bazaar.

“In fact I will be closed for the next six days,” he said, adding that even if he were to open shop he would only make RM10 on average. “I only got RM10 when I opened business two days ago. So today I closed, not because I have given up, but because I am tired of waiting for customers.

“Before that, I opened my stall for five days in a row, and I did not get a single sen,” he added.

Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya are under a CMCO until Oct 27 due to a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, mostly originating from the various clusters in Sabah.

Economic and industrial activities are still allowed to operate, but movement restrictions are imposed on the public. Workers and employees are allowed to travel across districts and states with conditions.

In Kuala Selangor, a shop specialising in fish crackers and other fish products called Old Jetty Trading Sdn Bhd is suffering the same fate.

Co-owner Ng Bee Sean, who runs the shop with one other partner, said they would usually supply local delicacies such as dried prawns, anchovies, and frozen food for steamboat restaurants and a variety of crackers at Pasir Penambang – a famous tourist destination known for fresh seafood and fishing villages.

Speaking to FMT, she said the two-week CMCO would cause massive losses, as there were relatively no customers walking in.

“Since 9am we were open yesterday, as usual, but not a single customer was in sight,” she said.

“For now, we can only go and promote our business on Facebook. I can only wait and see how business goes in the next two weeks.”

She added that the situation was discouraging as her business had just started to pick up speed and recover after the previous Movement Control Order (MCO) was lifted in May.

During the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) in June and July, her shop was starting to attract many domestic tourists. The government at that time was pushing Malaysians to travel within the country to help the crippling tourism sector.

“There were a lot of tourists from other states who came and also couples visiting on public holidays – we were able to cover our costs and were even slowly starting to make money.

“We followed all the strict SOPs to avoid getting fined. We provided MySejahtera QR codes, temperature checks, and sanitised surfaces.

“We limited the number of customers coming into the shop and would ask visitors to wait outside if there were too many people.”

But now, she feared her business would suffer losses yet again, adding that the CMCO would not only affect her shop, but similar businesses in the area.