Experts, businesses weigh in on lifting of lockdown

A police officer patrols a locked down Amman on August 28, 2020. Businesses say that even though the Friday lock down is no more, curfew hours still hinder sales. (Photo: Jordan News)
A police officer patrols a lockdown in Amman on August 28, 2020. Businesses say that even though the Friday lockdown is no more, curfew hours still hinder sales. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Friday lockdowns in Jordan, which have been in place since late February, were lifted last week.

Businesses across the Kingdom reopened their doors for their first Friday in months, yet the question remains as to whether this new measure will impact their overall performance. اضافة اعلان

“This decision was a social measure to calm the public sentiment,” representative of the garment and jewelry sector at the Jordan Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Asad Qawasmi said in an interview with Jordan News. “It was not reflected as an economic measure to ease the burden on businessowners.”

Clothing, shoe, and jewelry stores did witness significant demand upon reopening, but Qawasmi said that the lifting of the Friday lockdown was not enough. “This Friday showed us that there is a desire among consumers to go shopping, but the time factor limited this,” he said. 

Qawasmi cited early closing times and increased traffic and crowding as obstacles to citizens’ ability to shop at these stores on Friday. 

If current trends continue, Qawasmi fears this will threaten the economic wellbeing of business owners and their employees. 

“We are still requesting that there is time after iftar for stores to sell the inventory they imported, whose value exceeds around JD90 million for the entire season of Ramadan and summer,” he explained. 

The café and restaurant sectors, on the other hand, are still waiting to gauge what kind of impact no more Friday lockdowns will have on their businesses.

“For now, we have not seen a big difference as it is Ramadan and people do not really visit cafés and restaurants,” a source from the Jordan Restaurants Association (JRA) told Jordan News

After Ramadan, however, restaurants expect to see a significant rise in sales, as about 40 percent of their earnings are typically generated on Fridays, the JRA source, who requested anonymity, explained. 

“On weekends, we sell three times more than normal days,” Trasimeno café owner Mohammad Alameer told Jordan News. “So Friday lockdowns were disastrous.” 

Partial lockdowns and curfews will still harm the sector, Alameer said. Normally, most of the café’s work during Ramadan takes place in the evenings.

Among the establishments that have already witnessed a rise in sales on Friday was Miles supermarket. “This Friday customers wanted to start shopping for Eid, Ramadan, and Easter,” explained Miles’ Operations and Purchasing Manager Mohammed Abu Hirsh. 

Outside of the spring holidays, Hirsh expects that the lift of Friday lockdowns will actually lead to a drop in supermarket sales. He based this prediction on the supermarket’s performance last year when the government lifted Friday lockdowns. 

“When we have Friday lockdowns, consumption is really high; restaurants and cafes are closed and so the customer buys more ingredients to prepare food at home,” Hirsh explained. “Then on Saturdays, customers are leaving a lockdown and have missing items, so they also come and buy food.” 

Therefore, as a result of the lockdown, overall demand at the supermarket rose. “Thursday and Saturday sales were more than the sales for three normal days,” Hirsh said. Following Eid Al-Fitr, he expects sales to drop significantly. 

While responses across sectors regarding the lifting of the lockdowns vary, businessowners agree on the need for increased demand and the importance of economic recovery for the wellbeing of the community. 

 “If Ramadan and Eid pass and the businessowners do not benefit from the season, debts will accumulate and this will be a huge financial burden,” Qawasmi said. 

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