Meanwhile, the decline in sales in wholesale stores has had an impact on toy factories. Last Monday, this correspondent hardly found any customers at the 200 toy shops in Aftab Plaza in Chawkbazar from 1:00pm to 4:00pm in the afternoon. The vendors are almost completely idle with one or two employees. But in the previous years before corona, the traders hardly had time to catch their breath on the occasion of Eid. The shops were bustling with retailers from remote areas.
Not a single toy was sold at Sajib Enterprise in Chawkbazar till 2:00 pm Monday. The owner of the shop, Tanjid Hossain, told Prothom Alo, "It’s been days since I sold any toys. But I have to pay the shop and warehouse rent and employees' salaries every month. Then there are my family expenses. I have also taken a loan of several thousand.”
Several shops selling toys in Chawkbazar have also seen closed. Zahidul Haque, general secretary of Bangladesh Toy Merchants, Manufacturers and Importers Association (TMMEA), said this was due to no sales for months. He said, "Toy traders have suffered the most financial loss in corona times. Thousands of people in this sector have become unemployed. The income of those who are working has also decreased.”
Factories in dire condition
Even a decade ago, the toy market in the country was dominated by foreign toys. Then many local entrepreneurs opened toy factories. As a result, local toys are now dominating the market. Traders in Chawkbazar claim that at present, about 80 per cent of the toy market is occupied by local toys. But the toy factories are facing losses as they have not had any sales for a year due to corona. While large factories have survived, most small factories have stopped producing toys.
Aman Ullah, a young entrepreneur in the toy industry, told Prothom Alo, "It's been a year now. If there are no buyers for toys at the field level, where do we make and sell toys? As a result, our sales have decreased a lot. So we reduced production. I have also reduced the number of workers in the factory. Earlier, 1,400 workers worked in my factory which is reduced by 700 now.”
The wholesale traders and factory owners of Chawkbazar now demand government support in this difficult time to sustain and promote the toy industry. Many have lost their capital. No one in this sector received any stimulus. They think that the industry will go a long way if young entrepreneurs involved in making toys are financially supported.
TMMEA general secretary Zahidul Haque said, "We want the cooperation of the government to take this industry forward. Arrangements need to be made for small factories that have closed so that they can turn around again.”
* The report appeared in print and online edition or Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for English edition by Farjana Liakat