The availability of products has surfaced as a key challenge for the online-based fashion industry ahead of Eid – due to the suspension of shipments and inadequate local production.
Insiders from e-commerce and f-commerce (Facebook-based shops) industries said the prolonged shutdown caused by the Covid-19 crisis has encouraged people to order online, but some practical constraints are holding back the businesses from meeting demand.
They blamed suspended shipments and halted local production for this plus said product shortages will be a key issue as orders continue to increase daily.
Bangladesh's online shopping for fashion items largely happens on Facebook, and businesses operating on this platform are often small enterprises, the insiders added.
Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB) told The Business Standard, "Most of the f-commerce outlets import dresses and other items in small shipments. So, they usually do not have a large inventory."
"Most of them are now relying on previously-stocked products because shipments from major destinations, such as China and India, remain halted. Although orders have increased about 30 percent, it has become difficult to meet the demand considering the amount of time before Eid and product shortages," he added.
According to the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh, around 70 percent of the total e-commerce industry is related to fashion and accessories. Among this segment, the majority are small businesses based on Facebook.
Chief Executive Officer of AjkerDeal.com, Fahim Mashroor said, "Product availability is the biggest challenge, as most of the merchants and local producers have not been able to operate in the last two months."
"Two months before Eid is usually the height of production, but there was a complete shutdown during that period. So there were no raw materials available. Also the workers in production were stuck at their native homes, as many of them had left the capital during the first phase of shutdown," he added.
Mashroor said his company has been witnessing a two-to-three fold rise in orders for fashion goods in the past several days.
"The shortage of delivery personnel was a concern earlier, but the situation has eased from last week as many people returned to Dhaka. However, the online sellers are still facing challenges," he pointed out.
F-commerce businesses said the shortage of products will hit the industry by next week if orders continue to increase. They added that among the orders for fashion products, kids' items top the list.
"As we are dependent on our old inventory, soon we will be out of products if we do not get new shipments," said Sajjad Hossain, owner of the Facebook page Boss Baby.
"Childrens' items are the most-ordered fashion product of late. The overall situation in the country is far from Eid festivity, but children are expecting new clothes. That is why around 50 percent of the orders are for childrens' fashion items," he added.
According to a report released last year by German statistics firm Statista, the online fashion market in Bangladesh is worth around $598 million, and it has the capacity to reach up to $1.24 billion by 2023.