The potential of weekly bazaars
Throughout the country and at a number of locations in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, semi-permanent weekly bazaars ( Juma Bazaar, Budh Bazaar and Itwaar Bazaar) are a regular feature. While there is a remarkable diversity in these markets, their enormous potential has yet to be exploited. Though temporary, the weekly markets are a permanent source of livelihood for a vast number of vendors and stakeholders. However, there is a need to upscale these markets in compliance with the contemporary urban environment.
As a general practice the weekly bazaars are set up on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. But vendors have been found to extend sales to other days of the week as well for more income opportunities.
The weekly bazaars receive about 50 percent of buyers from surrounding areas who come to buy vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, grocery, utensils, fabrics, readymade garments, second-hand clothes and shoes, cosmetics, plasticware, small household items, handicrafts, decoration items and artificial jewellery.
It may be recalled that weekly bazaars have made a place in the retail sector only through competitive pricing. It is in their own interest to closely monitor and enforce fair prices and quality of goods. Most vendors setting up stalls in weekly markets adjust their pricing according to the locality where the market is set up.
There are a number of advantages for small business owners and vendors in selling at the weekly bazaars. Having no outlets of their own, they can afford to sell at relatively low prices. For example, a doll maker sells a doll at Rs. 4 to a local vendor who sells it onwards at Rs. 25, whereas, the weekly market is an organized platform for such small scale producers who sell their products at lower profit margins.
The advantage of a semi-open air weekly bazaar is that customers of all backgrounds are able to shop due to the accessibility of a convenient and central place. If high-end goods and items are promoted through weekly bazaar at subsidized rates, the lower middle class could be attracted to such items and the newly burgeoning middle class can also be provided with a vast array of utility articles. Even bigger brands may go for this opportunity.
A number of measures can be taken for scaling up these weekly markets. The design and setting up of stalls can be done skillfully to ensure functionality for optimum commercial attraction. A cooperative agreement between the management of the bazaar, the shopkeepers associations and consumer rights groups may be formed to enforce a dependable supply system for fair priced goods. Measures against pick-pocketing and security, especially for womenfolk, must be ensured.
Introduction of banking kiosks and ATM and credit card facilities can further add to the utility of these weekly markets. Government subsidies such as Ramadan or Eid packages offered through Utility Stores can be expanded more conveniently, if channelized though these market setups.
The food and crafts segment can attract domestic and foreign tourists. Students can also come to these markets to study local brands, consumer habits and selling trends. Moreover, designers, wholesalers and exporters may utilize the markets as a potential networking spot.
The government needs to prepare a plan for reducing high transport costs, rental costs for storage of goods and security and safety measures for the vendors and the public. Rental structures, publicity budgets, layout plans, facilities, proposed sales and benefits can all be included in a comprehensive concept plan. Adherence to aesthetics, adequate foliage, hygienic convenience facilities and an integrated developmental approach can serve as considerable improvements for the weekly markets.
At these markets customers often complain about price and quality anomalies. To counter this, if extensive publicity is done on a regular basis and increased during festive seasons, the bazaar will be well-known and established in the minds of the customers. This will allow the people from other cities as well as foreign tourists to start preferring the weekly bazaars for their basic shopping. Eventually the quality of products will rise and new standards will be set for a healthy domestic economy. Also, it is very important to publicize the market among craftsmen, voluntary organizations and other development and income generation bodies, giving them the message to ‘come and sell’, because only ‘come and buy’ publicity is not good marketing