LAHORE  - Crippling loadshedding, growing prices of gas and oil and last but not the least, humid climate has been preventing people from going out for Eid shopping. City main markets during the day present a deserted look due to excessive heat, while even after Iftar, as the people go out to shop around, traders and merchants complain of not having enough business.

Although traffic jams after Iftar are frequent, it cannot be deduced that Eid shopping fever has taken over simply because more cars are on the road. Indicators from across markets and shopping malls tell a different story.

“The problem these days has been exacerbated by loadshedding. We have to use UPS in order to keep the lights on while customers are few and far between.” Complains one shopkeeper who has a shop in liberty.

At Liberty, which is Lahore’s most popular shopping malls, shopkeepers have pinned their hopes on the coming week when they expect to see crowded markets but that seems wishful thinking. Most of the items sold are children’s shoes, garments and artificial jewellery items since Eidul Fitr is usually thought of as a festival especially for children and youngsters while women dress up and cook special sweets such as Swaiyaan.

At three of Liberty’s superstores, where foreign brands are available, customer presence is below average. One of the plazas is undergoing renovation. It is bringing up local brands mostly cloths which according to the manager are comparatively easier for the customers to pick off the shelf. But there is a catch.

“Local brands are not durable compared to imported items and in the long run puts off the customers. But he says he has no choice because expensive foreign items are just for not doing any business. Says Shahid Ali, the Manager.  Shahid, however expects that in the coming days, his mall would attract more people. For the time being, he looks on at the street outside hoping that people would start pouring in.

At the back of Liberty, there is a tailors’ market which is a Mecca for women, things are not quite as rosy as they usually are despite the approaching Eid. There is a palpable sense of disquiet about the crippling power outages and growing heat which is making tailors job virtually impossible especially when they have to contend with impatient women.

One of the tailors, Akhtar said that due to 12-hour loadshedding, his business has virtually gone down the dumps. “All my routine customers have gone away. And worse, my UPS gave out the other day because of excessive blackouts. This has made it extra hard for me to stitch up dresses in time.” He said. He was of the view that because of unbearable working conditions especially for the tailors, women these days prefer readymade garments. Some other tailors also expressed frustration over growing power outages which they held accountable for turning people away.

Similarly at the MM Alam Road, which is known for food heaven, a couple of shopping plazas wear a deserted look. A shop boasts of having 100 percent cotton shirts and pants, but since this is not enough, the manager, Maqsood Baloch has thrown another incentive of 50 percent sale to draw people in. Sadly, he complains that he would have to shift at some other location because at least at this place, his business is going nowhere.

Other famous shopping malls including, Y-Block DHA, Anarkali, Ichra, Shah Almi are no different. Here, just like other places, shops remain open until late night, but for the middle-income class, the glistening markets don’t hold much hope. According to traders and shopkeepers, people below a certain income find it hard to spend money even when they are under pressure from their children to get them new cloths and gifts.

 People are not turning up in numbers as we had expected but this is only natural given the economic situation, complained a trader in Anarkali.

One of the shopkeepers in Anarkali said that even though he had put up a loot sale on all clothing items, his shop remains virtually deserted except for a couple of hours after Iftar but even then those who are willing to loosen the purse strings are dismally few. 

“I’m worried about my own survival. It was this season that I was hoping to cash in on but it has almost come and gone and there is nothing that I have been able to profit,” he said.