Quick solutions needed to help merchants hurt by online shopping

A man closes the shutter of his storefront in downtown Amman on November 27, 2021. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, merchants all over Jordan have been struggling to keep their businesses alive. The pandemic only compounded an already difficult situation, made worse by the growing demand for online shopping.اضافة اعلان

Jordan News interviewed several merchants on Mecca Street on Wednesday about their economic situation.  

Ayman Zahran, an employee at a clothing store, said that online shopping has significantly affected the store, especially as merchants who sell over the internet have no rents or bills to pay, and therefore can reduce their prices to encourage customers to buy from them.

He added that while White Friday helped revive markets “by about 20 percent, it does not make a difference to our situation, as COVID-related losses, due to high shipping costs, might plague business owners and employees for some time”.

Mohammad Al Daoud, an employer at a chair-designing store, told Jordan News that some goods are not sold online, and consequently, not all merchants and sectors are affected by online shopping.

He added that stores with good reputation should never be afraid of competition as customers will choose them “no matter what”.

Yazeed Al-Saeed, an employer at a toy store, told Jordan News, that “nothing beats buying from a real store”, even though some people still choose to buy online, stressing that through online shopping, “people will not get the chance to check their goods or return them if they malfunction”.

He also believes that every store has its customers that trust it and come back to it despite the fierce competition merchants face.

Anas Mohammad, an employer at a home décor store, told Jordan News that online shopping had affected his work, highlighting that online shopping delivers goods to customers, which is a great service to those who do not like to leave their houses, especially during the pandemic.

However, he said, “online stores might be deceiving sometimes; they do not let customers check on the goods before buying them. Sometimes their photos are deceiving, too; they might post a photo of an item which is ten times smaller in real life”.

Head of the Amman Chamber of Commerce Khalil Haj Tawfik told Jordan News that “thousands of merchants are significantly affected by post parcels, and thousands of others will be affected, too, if the problem is not addressed soon”.

He added that the main problem is lack of fairness, as merchants have their goods thoroughly examined, in addition to having to pay high shipping costs, ye, there is only a small fee on post parcels.

He pointed out that post parcels had left “a negative impact on both state treasury and merchants”, and called for quick solutions to help merchants stand on their feet again.

President of the Garment Traders Association (GTA) Sultan Allan was quoted by Petra News Agency as saying that commercial activities during the "White Friday" are below expectations, stressing that markets witnessed a 30-50 percent decline in sales this year compared to last year.

Allan said that foreign e-commerce websites have attracted a wide group of customers with their encouraging discounts, and that has created an unfair competition in the market.

“Foreign e-commerce applications attract a large proportion of buyers with low costs, customs and tax duties exemptions,” while the Jordanian garment sector has unfair customs tariffs imposed on it, which makes it lose the edge, said Allan.

He called on the concerned authorities to conduct a quick and genuine review of the current policy, to address its loopholes, and lift tax exemptions on post parcels, to place an even tax burden on all types of trade.

Munir Deyye, former GTA president, said in a phone interview with Jordan News that post parcels are replacing local stores, affirming that, contrary to expectations, costumers chose to buy from foreign e-commerce websites in White Friday.”

He claimed that merchants pay high shipping costs when they import their goods, in addition to high customs and excise duties, however, fees levied on post parcels are very low.

Deyye said that “till now, we do not have enough legislation to control online shopping”, adding that if there had been real regulations, merchants’ problems would have been addressed.

He also said that besides post parcels, unlicensed local online shopping sites pose a real challenge for the country and merchants, adding that these sites cannot be held legally accountable and therefore they do not pay duties and taxes.

Assistant Director of the Directorate of Market and Supply Control at the Ministry of Industry and Trade Shabeeb Al-Fuqaha told Jordan News that the ministry has intensified control over unlicensed local online shopping sites, and tracks them to make sure they have all the necessary approvals.

He added that some stores sell below market, and the ministry tracks them to ensure they adhere to the official pricing set by the ministry.

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