Small businesses hopeful after closure time extension

It is 10 am and Ajay hurriedly takes a short walk towards his small shop, hoping to recover the loss his business incurred from the several prolonged lockdowns that were imposed in Phuentsholing earlier.

However, the small general shop, located near the Norgay Cinema Hall, sees fewer customers and sometimes the shop doesn’t get any buyers. Before the lockdown (which was imposed on April 17), the small general shop saw customers filling the shop. And while the lockdown has been lifted now, just a few customers visit Ajay’s shop.

Ajay said he had to dispose of most of the outdated goods, which almost left his shop empty. However, he replenished the stock after the lockdown was lifted.

Meanwhile, Ajay is cautious now. He doesn’t want to stock up his shop with goods.

He said he doesn’t want to lose goods once again should there be another lockdown in the future.

“The fear runs all the time whenever I fill the shop so I only fill the shop with goods which will last for a week,” Ajay said, adding that his frequent customers are no longer visiting the shop as many have left the town because of the Covid-19.

However, after the closure time for businesses in the high-risk areas were extended till 9pm starting from this week, Ajay is hoping to recover the loss he incurred from his business.

Similarly, another shop owner, Sima, said it has become difficult both for house owners and those operating shops as the shops had to remain closed for more than four months.

“Paying rent without any single sale was a hard time. I paid rent for nearly four months for my shop (Nu 8,000 for a month) and now I can see why running a shop is hard at this time of the pandemic.”

When she opened her shop after the lockdown, Sima said Nu 3,000 worth of goods were expired and eaten by the rats.

However, she said the time extension has come as a hope to recover and run a good business.

Sima owns a small shop near the Norgay Cinema Hall and earns around Nu 1,000 to 2,000 each day, which she thinks would be sufficient to recover from the four-month loss.

Meanwhile, many owners of small businesses say that the number of customers has decreased after the lockdown was lifted.

Some shop owners say that many residents left the town and the ones who are in Phuentsholing do not come out due to the fear of the virus.

 A printing shop owner in the core town area, Manzil Lama said there are no customers like there used to be during the normal days.

“Many residents have already left the town. I heard a few more are also planning to leave. I feel that the time extension will not make a huge difference in our business as there will be no one staying that late because of the Covid-19 situation,” he said.

However, a few customers have their own reasons too. They say that the prices are either too high or the products sold are from the old stock.  

Sonam Tashi from Phuentsholing