By Muhammed S. Bah
The usual bustling scenario which has been characterizing commercial activities in preparation of the Muslim feast of ‘Tobaski’ in the capital city of Banjul has been absent this time round.
Visiting the main Albert Market in the capital city yesterday, 8 September, this reporter observed that this year’s ‘Wanterr’ or open sales is without that teeming crowd of traders, prospective buyers as well as window shoppers that used to characterize these run up to these festive events. There are significantly fewer tables and people unlike the cramp and overcrowded area, especially on Russell Street which is in front of the market. Due to the lack of customers, some of the vendors were even seen lying under their tables sleeping.
Some of the traders commented that for the past three years the ‘Wanterr’ sales have been going down drastically both in terms of selling and buying.
Fallou Joof, a textile trader, said few customers are coming to buy textiles and this means low sales. He added that the ‘Wanterr’ of last year was even better than this year’s in terms of sales.
“We buy our materials all the way from Dubai or sometimes from Senegal which is so expensive and it is not good for our business if we cannot sell these materials,” said Joof.
Amadou Bah, another textile vendor, confirmed the low sales but expressed optimism that sales will increase as they enter the last days before the feast.
“Some customers normally do their shopping in the last days before the feast and we hope this is the case as the Tobaski is getting nearer with only 3 days left,” he said optimistically.
As for the proprietor of a fashion shop which sells ‘Ready Made’ women dresses and men’s clothes among other goods, their sales are on the increase as the customers are coming to buy.
Musa Jobe said he is getting good sales daily as his customers, who are mainly women, are coming to patronize him. “My dresses are a bit expensive because of the declining value of the Dalasi against the major foreign currencies which we use to buy our goods. But despite this, the customers are still coming,” said Jobe.
Isatou Chorr, a vendor who sells shoes, said business was more profitable in the previous years as the prices of the goods are more expensive now for both the traders and customers. “Customers complain that our goods are expensive and this affects our sales,” he admitted.
Chorr said the prices of their wears are more expensive when the celebration of feasts is getting nearer.
She also expressed optimism that customers will come out in their numbers as they enter the final days before the feast. “Hopefully, the situation will change in the last three days before Tobaski,” he remarked.
Aminata Njie, a middle aged shopper, who came for the “Wanterr” with the expectation that prices will be lowered, expressed disappointment that things did not turn out as she hoped.
She lamented the high price of textiles which, she said, she came to purchase for her children. “I cannot afford the high prices they ask for the textiles which I want for all my children. The money I have with me from my meager salary cannot buy what I want,” she said.
Another shopper, Neneh Jallow, said she is going home empty handed as the shoes she came to buy are expensive and that she does not have the amounts the vendors are asking. “I came to the Wanterr to buy shoes but the prices are really beyond my reach. There is no ‘Wanterr’ as such because the prices are high and cannot be afforded by many people including myself,” she said.