Most shopkeepers in the capital report a drastic fall in their business where business has not been the same since the pandemic. The shopkeepers also reports dip in quantity of the goods purchased.
Namgay Lham, owner of a general shop said that pandemic has seriously impacted the sales. “It was a significant stumbling block and a real inefficiency in our supply chain’’.
Prior to the pandemic which started on March 5, 2020, the shop used to sell goods worth Nu. 20,000 per day. Today, it is hardly Nu.5000-6000.
According to her, sales are dropping because majority of people are moving abroad, and some are resigning from their private jobs and moving to their village, only the permanent resident of the capital and few others are seen in the city.
Similarly, Tshering Zam, owner of alter shop said that the business is down because there are not many people now.
Except for few shops, the situation is no different in most shops across Thimphu.
Clothing stores share similar stories.
The owner of clothing store, Tashi Dema waits for customers. She said that with increase in transportation and custom tax, they had no option left than to increase the price of the goods. “Before the pandemic, for a sack of products we pay Nu. 150-200 but now we are paying Nu. 4000 which is significantly high.”
She talked about how she lost her customers and affected the sales. “I used to get Nu. 7000-10,000 per day before but sadly now, it is really difficult to even get Nu. 1000,” she said.
Sangay Wangdi shared his clothing store was greatly impacted as he could not meet his target to sell his products. Sales went down by 40 percent.
Sales has come down, he said adding that paying rent is such a hassle. “For now, we are surviving on the few customers,” he added.
Small businesses, who were affected the most by the pandemic, most additionally say they are having trouble with shop rents.
Similarly, entertainment outlets also reported decrease in the number of customers. One of the karaoke managers said, “Before we could see flux of people but now, a few same customers, it’s really difficult to pay rent for this big space at the end of the month”. Most of frequenters that I know have left for abroad, he added.
Sonam Dema, the owner of kitchen utensils shop said there were customers in the peak seasons (February till March mid), but there are not many people now. “We used to get Nu. 20,000 per day during weekdays and up to Nu. 40,000 during weekends, but now sales has drastically dipped.”
She said for a cartoon containing 4 piece of rice cooker it cost just Nu. 50 before whereas now it charge Nu. 150 for the same cartoon.
Shopkeepers said that despite fewer shoppers, they still have to open the shops to avoid losing out on customers.
Kinley, who runs a grocery store said, “Despite the low turnover of people, we are still open to not lose the few customers.”
Restaurants expressed, likewise, saying that they did lose customers.
“We are already finding it little difficult to fulfill our estimated demand, but the situation got worse as the sales dropped drastically ever since the start of pandemic,” said Phuntsho Dorji, owner of the restaurant.
If the situation of wilting market is in anyways attributed to the Bhutanese travelling abroad or dwindling global economy, either ways or both it is anticipated market downturn. The recovery of country’s economy seems farfetched idea with inflation and increasing fuel and gas prices and slow or no government initiative to normalize the economy.