Soaring rents of shops, especially in the sprawling suburbs of Doha, are forcing a number of smaller shops like hair-cutting salons, laundries, garages and even neighbourhood stores to close down.
Another major reason why small neighbourhood stores, in particular, are closing down in some far-flung suburbs like Aziziya, is because many of the customers buying items on credit tend to default.
At least one grocery store run by an Indian, Ashraf, in Aziziya closed down recently since he failed to recover a lot of dues from customers.
Ashraf is now managing a small shop of building materials close to where he sold food and other small household items until recently.
“The new business is doing better than the previous one because, first of all, a lot of houses are being built in the locality and they need some building materials in emergency,” he told this newspaper.
Secondly, unlike consumer items, building materials are not sold in retail on credit, he said.
Ashraf said that anyways the authorities have announced that soon they would order the closure of neighborhood stores all over the country and ask them to shift to some designated locations in commercial areas.
“So I switched to other line of business in advance,” he said. According to him, to manage a neighborhood store these days was a challenging job since a lot of people place orders on the phone and want things delivered at their homes.
“For door-to-door service you need a lot of boys who can make the deliveries on bicycles,” he said.
Grocery outlet owners say they have of late been facing fierce competition from bigger outlets and hypermarkets which have waged a price war.
“This aside, we have competition among ourselves as well—the smaller neighborhood stores within a locality. If we refuse to give items on credit, others would give,” he said.
A residential locality is like a close-knit society. You know people of the area closely. “So how can you refuse if someone is asking for something on credit,” said the owner, Hasan, of another neighborhood store in the nearby Al Murra suburb.
Hasan said he had some difficulty is recovering part of the dues from some people, but normally customers buying on credit paid at the end of the month. “My business is okay but we are facing increasing competition from the bigger consumer outlets which have been springing up all over like mad,” he said.
According to a Nepalese employee of a ‘baqala’ (neighborhood store, as they are called in Arabic), their business was mostly from customers who honked and placed orders sitting in their cars.
Bahadur said he had become so much accustomed to the honking that if he is sleeping and hears a car horn, he gets up immediately ready to respond. “My sleep is always disturbed for this reason.”
Small barber shop and garage owners in some of these localities on the outskirts of Doha say that due to the acute shortage of shops in the main city limits shopkeepers were making their way to the far-flung suburbs due to which commercial property rents were going up.
“From QR2,000 we were suddenly asked to pay up QR5,000 rent for our small barber shop, so we have no choice but to surrender it,” said a barber shop owner in Aziziya. “These are indeed tough times for smaller businesses.”
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