Small-time shopkeepers see a long way to recovery

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

The local economy in Phuentsholing is expected to gradually heal from the shock it suffered during the lockdown but the small-time shopkeepers are doubtful.

It may take a long time before their business picks up, they say.

Along with the mounting pressure of the house and shop rents, the number of people in the town is just limited to the regular residents, and this is not good for the business.

By yesterday, almost all the business entities, big and small have opened their shops.

A micro shop owner, Kuenzang Wangdi said he doesn’t have betel nut and betel leaves.

“Doma is the main product in my shop and without it, there were not much sales today,” he said.

The shopkeeper said that Phuentsholing was a bustling market prior to the lockdown because people from all other dzongkhags gathered there. Those customers have disappeared after the lockdown.

“It will take a long time for us to recover properly,” he said, adding another lockdown may just hit everyone harder.

A restauranteur, Prem Kumari Ghalley started operating from yesterday.

“Looking at the movement of people the town looks normal,” she said. “However, only a few customers had come.”

Shopkeepers said that they use the Druk Trace app and maintain physical distancing. However, physical distancing is still a problem as many people are seen crowding.

Another shopkeeper, Tshering Dorji said that the business was good yesterday the first day he opened his business after lockdown.

“The crowd is definitely there. It may be because the town is opening slowly. But getting the goods have become difficult,” he said, which he said has added to the increase in the price of some products.

“People ask for MRP rates but when we are purchasing at higher rates, there is no other option than to increase the selling price.”

Tshering Dorji also said that his shop had plenty of stationaries, which could have been sold during the recent relocation of Phuentsholing students when some shops were allowed to open.

An owner of a micro shop that mainly earns from selling doma said her savings have exhausted during the lockdown.

“The house owner has not exempted the rents,” she said.

At Phuensum Lam, a grocer, Kezang Thinley is also worried as there are not many customers.

“Our customers are from villages of Phuentsholing and Lokchina gewogs,” he said, adding they are not allowed to come to the town at present.

Meanwhile, Phuentsholing entered the fourth phase of the lockdown relaxation on September 17.

All the government offices have resumed functioning. Movement of private vehicles has been allowed on an odd-even basis.

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