Businesses participating in the Dhaka International Trade Fair are frustrated at the poor turnout of visitors and sales in the first 15 days of the month-long event this year.
They said sales in the first half of the fair had plunged to half of that in the corresponding period of last year’s fair, an annual event organised by the Export Promotion Bureau at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the city. This is the 16th edition of the fair that opened on New Year’s Day.
Mizanur Rahman, a salesman at the Butterfly stall, said their sales so far had grossed only Tk 30 lakh, which was quite opposite to their expectations.
‘This year the number of visitors is less. So the sale is not as expected,’ he said.
Salespersons at the stalls of local companies and brands like Navana Furniture and Walton also described a similar drop in sales.
Sima Roy, a sales executive of Navana Furniture, said, ‘The people who come to the fair are mostly sightseers. Only a small section of them comprises the real buyers.’
The cold wave sweeping the country for the past few weeks may have had an negative impact on sales at the fair as the number of visitors has also been fewer than the usual one, surmised Zahid Ahmed, owner of ‘She N She’ Furniture of Pakistan, who has been taking part in the expo for the last 15 years.
Visitors, however, said they were waiting for the product prices to come down before going for heavy buying.
Md Alauddin, a Bangladeshi expatriate in Saudi Arabia, said the prices of different products at the fair were much high.
Many of the visitors, especially the youth, come to the fair on a kind of outing with their friends.
Robin, a student of the American International University of Bangladesh, who was roaming the venue with his friends, said, he had been coming to the fair frequently and going round the place in a group.
This year the number of small stalls selling snacks and beverages is quite high. Besides, they are located haphazardly almost at every nook and cranny. ‘These disorganised refreshment stalls make the fair look untidy,’ said Mohammad Parvez, a stall-keeper in the Iranian pavilion.
Some stall-keepers complained of beggars entering the fair premises every day at late hours. Some traders also complained of pickpockets running their trade on the fair ground.
Like the previous fairs, home appliances and women’s wear are the hottest entries this year too. People have been showing more interest in items like microwave ovens and rice-cookers.
A total of 531 local, foreign, and multinational companies from 30 countries including Bangladesh are participating in the fair that remains open from 10:00am to 10:00pm for all for an entry fee of Tk 15 per person.
The EPB has set this year’s target of receiving spot orders at the fair at Tk 40 crore. In the last fair, spot orders amounted to Tk 25 crore.
However, the downtrend in business so far has made many participating companies doubtful about the feasibility of realising that target.