Raj Sheen, a representative for Welco Industries, has participated in holiday exhibitions held in Addis Abeba for the past seven years. He sells kitchen utensils, ovens and clothes in his shed located inside the first pavilion.
“We are seeing fewer numbers of buyers year after year,” Raj said. “The purchasing power of the people has drastically declined.”
Headquartered in Pakistan, Welco has been active in India and Pakistan for more than two decades. It is known for its manufactured goods such as ovens and refrigerators.
He sees the number of potential buyers has plummeted by a significant amount to less than 500 a day despite a surge in some visitors.
“Even though we charge a small price, the visitors can’t afford to buy the product,” he added.
The price of the products at Raj’s shop vary between 300 Br and 500 Br.
With 450 exhibitors- 50 of who mare foreigners- the Easter Bazaar offers different products for consumers in the run up to the holiday.
The bazaar gives visitors, such as Kidist Jigush, 25, a platform to meet their demands.
Kidist, 25, has been attending exhibitions for more than a decade. Now, three years after getting married, she comes to the exhibition to buy stoves, clothes and packaged foods.
“I don’t see any difference here except getting all the items in one place,” Kidist said. “Everything, the price, the product, has no difference with other outlets outside the bazaar.”
Nonetheless, the Easter exhibition, hosted by Eyoha Addis Entertainment and Events, is an opportunity for some businesses to increase sales and outreach.
Tsegaye Berhane, a clothing retailer, is one of the participants who enjoyed a spike in sales during the current holiday. He believes that offering discounts is one way to attract more customers in stricter economic conditions.
“I put a 20-30pc discount on each item to appeal to more customers,” he explained.
Budget-savvy shoppers who plan out purchases well in advance of the holidays know certain items are best to buy during the holiday shopping season. One of the major things on the list is clothing.
Such items hit rock-bottom prices in the weeks before major holidays, because retailers like Tsegaye are looking to clean out their remaining seasonal inventory to make room for other styles that will soon hit shelves.
“Discounting prices will turn in to a good profit during holiday times,” Tsegaye added. “After I made a discount on the current bazaar I earned double what I did during Christmas.”
The Easter Bazaar opened two weeks ago at the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre. Eyoha Promotion Plc organised the exhibition that will conclude on the eve of the Ethiopian Easter on the coming Saturday. The venue was glowing with fancy decorations and was filled with different vendors carrying stocks ranging from cosmetics and jewellery to furniture and kitchen utensils. Besides the trade, the bazaar accompanied by different concerts led by various Bands and singer along with over 30 vocalists
Renowned participants from different sectors were also available during the current expo.
Pramukh Agro Industry Plc is one of the participants in Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre. The company has been renting the same shed for the past four years. It produces Tasty Soya, a product which caught the eye of many visitors during Bazaars. The product said to have almost the same taste with beef.
“We use the exhibition to promote our products,” said Elsa Seifu, a marketing manager of Pramukh.
However, the decline in the number of customers is evident, according to Elsa.
“I heard many customers saying there are no new products for sale,”she said, explaining the reason for the drop in visitor numbers.
The 26 year old, Daniel Negash, agrees with Elsa, as he is one of the customers who is dissatisfied with the bazaar.
“Every exhibitor should reconsider their market strategy,” he said. “Business as usual is not useful to anyone.”
He and his friend were searching around to find fashionable new arrivals, but they didn’t manage to get what they wanted. Most of the retailers have been providing the same product year after year, according to Daniel.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Eyerusalem Demeqe, who is the salesperson of Zenith Gebs Eshet.
“Even though we put a discounted price on our products and rolled out new products, people are already discouraged by previous bazaars,” said Eyerus who has observed the number of customers plummeted by half.
Elshaday Kebede, a coordinator at the Bazaar, believes that the unavailability of new products is not a concern in the exhibition.
“People come here to find everything in one place, not only to search for new items,”Elshaday said.
Eyoha Promotion has previously organised three-holiday expos: two Christmas bazaars and one Easter bazaar. The Company won the right to set up the last Christmas and Easter Bazaar with a bid of 31.2 million Birr, nine million Br higher than the bid the previous year. The offer is a record high to date, with a separate offer of 17.6 million Br and 13.6 million Br for Christmas and Easter Expo, respectively. However, this has put a dent in participant wallets, forcing the organiser to increase rent price for sheds.
“The rent is escalating at an alarming rate,” said Eyerusalem, who saw the rent price overshoot to 63,000 Br from 50,000 during last holiday. “I don’t know what is going to happen next holiday.”
Elshaday argues differently.
“The increase is noticeable with a rise in inflation,” said Elshday. “But we tried to charge a fair price to participants.”
Industry insiders say that the surge will continue in the coming bazaars as well.
“The cut-throat competition will hike up the rent price,” said the insider.
The kind of the holiday is also another major factor in this business, according to Eyerusalem, who sells cosmetics and perfumes.
“People tend to buy food products during Easter rather than any other holidays,” She said.
However, despite many challenges, higher rental price and decline in some visitors does not seem to be taking any heat off businesses’ demand to rent sheds.
“We use the expo not only to sell products but also to promote our products,” Elshaday added.
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