Nigerians face bleak Christmas tomorrow as recession hampers preparation
Hampers Sellers, Local Basket Market Suffer Low Patronage
Christmas celebration is publicly acknowledged as the most celebrated season in the world. This is premised on the fact that everyone, irrespective of his or her creed and status, celebrates the season directly or indirectly.
Most people begin their Christmas shopping from October and November simply because of the hike in prices during the peak or rush period, which usually begins from the first week of December.
However, the economic downturn in the country, with its attendant hike in the prices of goods, especially foodstuffs and other household items, which have pushed inflation rate to an all time high, has made it difficult for most households to shop for this year’s yuletide. What stares most Nigerians in the face is bleak celebration, the sort they have not hard in living memory.
For instance, rice, which is the preferred food item for the celebration, has become a gold and out of the reach of average Nigerians, who last year, could afford a 50kg bag at between N9,000 and N13,000. But it now goes for between N18,000 and N23,000 in various markets in different parts of the country.
Following the economic meltdown, the country’s unemployment rate now stands at 13.3 per cent based on recent data from National Bureau of Statistics. About two million workers have so far lost their jobs, as most companies have shut down operation, while the few surviving ones have significantly cut down their workforce, with some owing staff backlog of salaries.
The situation has further worsened for many citizens, who, in their bid to stay afloat, put their money in the ponzi scheme, MMM, with promise of 30 per cent payout as return on investment (ROI).
However, many Nigerian who invested in the scheme with the hope of having something to spend during the Yuletide have had their hopes dashed as they rudely learnt two week that the scheme has been suspended till January, with their monies trapped in the scheme.
From the look of things, most children would be denied the joy of Christmas, as most parents are frustrated by the recession. Anger, hunger, anguish and frustration currently pervade the land, as most state governments owe their workers salary arrears running into several months.
Many who spoke with The Guardian noted that the hike in prices of commodities, especially foodstuffs due to the recession, has made it difficult for them to shop for Christmas. For Mrs. Ifunnaya Agwuncha, a wife and a businesswoman, the country’s present circumstances are not favourable, adding,
“The economic recession is affecting the preparation for Christmas because the prices of everything in the market have really gone up – from food to clothing to everything you can think of.
“I made a list of the necessary things to buy, but the way things are now, I’m not able to meet up with the expenses because I don’t have money at hand. The price of everything in the market now has gone up. A bag of rice now is about N25,000.”
An entrepreneur, who simply identified herself as Thomizyn, said she been striving to maintain her business in the face of the economic breakdown. According to her, the meltdown has affected her business, and the prices of items in the market have jumped beyond reach.
She said, “This year’s Christmas wouldn’t be what I expect. Previously, if you have to go shopping, a little money is enough for your expenses. Last year, a dollar was exchanged for N150, but now an item that should to be sold for N2,000 now goes for N5,000 due to the recession. The recession is really affecting me; even my business is not generating any profit. I’m trying to make sure it doesn’t fall apart.”
A basket of hamper that sold for N5,000 and N10,000 last year now ranges between N15,000 and N20,000, depending on the items packed inside it. Most dealers at Apongbon Market, Lagos Island, Ikotun Market, Alimosho, and Tejuosho Market, Yaba, expressed disappointment that there was low patronage this season.
Mrs. Biola, a dealer at Apongbon Market, said sales have never been this bad compared to previous Christmas seasons, adding, “I used to sell more than two hundred baskets of hampers every Christmas season, but this year the story is different. Hampers sales records have never been low like this during Christmas season. I have only sold twenty baskets since the beginning of this month (December). I’m so disappointed because I have already tied down my capital.”
Another dealer in the market, Mrs. Shukurah, said she might not venture into the business again as the economic situation in the country has really affected the business.
According to her, “People are not really interested in hampers again. I will wait till January. If I don’t sell, I will unwrap the hampers and sell the items in pieces. Selling in pieces is a loss because the basket, wrappers and ribbon will become waste.”
For Segun, a major supplier of hampers to corporate organisations, it has been business as usual. According to him, he reached out to his clients like he usually did every year, but only a few have so far sent their orders. He blames the low patronage on hike in the prices of hampers due to the recession.
“For example, the hamper I sold at the rate of N5,000 last year now sells for N8,000 this year,” he said. “There is a particular custard I used to add in my hampers, which I used to buy at the rate of N3,00, but this year it goes for N7,00 from the producer. So also other beverages like Milo, Bournvita, milk, sugar, all have had their prices increased twice or thrice than they were sold last year. Some companies that used to ask for up to 100 hampers reduced it to 50 this year.
A dealer at Ikotun Market, Mrs. Ajose, noted that since the previous year, the sale of hampers has reduced drastically, noting, “This year is worst; though I was cautious not to include perishable items. If potential buyers did not come, I will dispose of the items in pieces.”
Another trader and dealer in hampers in the market, who did not want her in print, told The Guardian the reason she was not displaying hampers this year was because it has become a waste of her energy. “If any customer wants me to wrap, I will wrap and collect my service charges from the person,” she said.”
At Tejuosho Market, some traders had wares scantly displayed, as they explained that people were no more interested in buying hampers. “The few people you see displaying them just want to keep the business going. There is no patronage for hampers this year; it seems people are not interested in hampers,” one of them said.
A visit to the local basket weaving market in Maryland showed that the harsh economic situation in the country has greatly affected patronage, as there production has been scaled down. A waver in the market, Femi Onanuga, said consumers ordered for less unlike previous years when there was boom in sales. He explained that the market produces based on bookings from organisations, but that it has been low in quantity.
He noted that Yuletide season was when they recorded higher sales, but that this year there has been low patronage, adding that the economic situation is to blame for the increase in the prices of everything.
According to Onanuga,“We still get patronage but not as usual. I am not really impressed about the patronage by our customers. Christmas ought to be our peak period. We tried to make the prices reasonable since the materials are sourced locally, but when the cost of transport is calculated, the prices changed compared to last year but it is just a slight change. Those buying are for personal use.”
A dealer of woven baskets and owner of a supermarket, Bisi Olarewaju, said that the economic difficulty in the county has affected everybody’s pocket, saying, “I would have loved to buy the normal quantity I am used to buying, but I am scared of buying and not selling everything. I wish to buy 124 pieces of basket at #450 each, but my plan changed to 90 pieces as one basket now sells for #650.”
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