The volume of sales on the occasion of Valentine's Day and the first day of Phalgun frustrated businessmen as it remained far below the pre-pandemic level although it increased significantly compared to last year.
Fashion outlets, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and flower shops expected a large number of customers on these two occasions, but that was not the case as the pandemic situation discouraged many to go outdoors.
Besides, there were not many traditional festivals or events, like the Ekushey book fair, which attracted huge crowds to celebrations across the city.
Flower prices doubled, number of buyers shrunk
Due to an increased demand, the prices of flowers more than doubled in the wholesale market on the eve of Valentine's Day and the first day of Phalgun, which were on the same day this year. Consequently, the retailers charged higher prices for flowers, which shocked many customers.
Abul Khair, who came to buy flowers at the Agargaon flower market, was shocked when he found that a bouquet of eight roses and some other flowers would cost him Tk2,500.
Khair told The Business Standard that last year he bought roses at this time at Tk40-50 per piece, but this year the price jumped to Tk120.
"I am thinking of making a small bouquet with a few roses and rajanigandha (tuberose) instead of a large one for my beloved," he said.
Md Alauddin, seller at Flower Zone, told TBS, "In previous years we bought roses at Tk3-4 per piece, but this year we had to buy it at Tk12-15. As a result, we are selling local roses for Tk50 and foreign roses for Tk80-100 per piece."
Shahadat Hossain, treasurer of Agargaon Wholesale Flower Market, told TBS that the 150 shops there usually sell flowers worth Tk2-3 crore per day on the eve of Valentine's Day, but this year they aimed to post sales amounting to Tk5 crore as the price of the product doubled.
According to Shahadat, flower sales across Dhaka city amounted to Tk10 crore in the last couple of days.
Flower growers in the Godkhali area of Jashore sold products worth Tk20 crore on the occasion of Valentine's Day this year, said Abdur Rahim, president of a faction of Bangladesh Flower Society.
This year, they sold roses at Tk15-20 per piece, which was a record.
At the same time, the prices of gladiolus, gerbera and tuberose were also high, which enabled the farmers to cover their losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the untimely rains.
Fashion stores witnessed low sales
Sales at the fashion outlets in the city were lower during this year's Valentine's Day compared to normal times as educational institutions remained closed and the Ekushey Book Fair did not start yet.
Many shops in markets like Bashundhara City Shopping Mall and Aziz Super Market took preparations for the first day of Phalgun or spring season sales, but they received very few customers.
Sheikh Lutfur Rahman, Kay Craft Showroom Manager at Aziz Super Market, told TBS that, "Before Covid-19, sales amounted to Tk8-10 lakh on the occasion of this festival, but it was not even one-fourth of that this year. However, our sales doubled compared to last year."
Joel Biswas, manager of fashion house Kapar-e-Bangla, told TBS that, "We designed many dresses thinking that ceremonies on the advent of springtime will become normal as many people have been vaccinated. But three-quarters of our dresses have remained unsold."
"If the universities were open, students would come to shops. There was no ceremony to celebrate Phalgun. Where would people go if there is no cultural event? Besides, the 'T-shirt fair' that used to be held in our market was also not organised due to Covid-19. So the sales on the occasion of the festival were poor," he added.
Nazmul Ahsan Naju, president of the Aziz Cooperative Market Shop-Owners and Businessmen's Association, said sales had fallen by 75% compared to pre-pandemic period as few buyers visited the shops.
"Sales have been lower than the normal times, but it was 20% more than that in last year," said Shahin Ahmed, senior vice-president of Fashion Entrepreneurs' Association of Bangladesh.
However, sales at high-end fashion stores were noteworthy.
Md Motiur Rahman, chief operating officer of Twelve Life Style, said, "We sold the highest amount this year among the last three years. Our stock has finished."
He said the customers are gradually coming out of the trauma caused by the pandemic and expected that the sales will increase further during Eid seasons.
Customers at hotels, restaurants increase 50%
Starred hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, and fast-food shops expected to entertain large crowds on the occasion of Valentine's Day, but their expectations were not met.
InterContinental Dhaka, Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Westin Dhaka, Le Meridien Dhaka, Amari Dhaka, Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden, Best Western Plus Maya and many other hotels in Dhaka offered special dinner packages, expecting a large number of customers.
The Garden Kitchen of Sheraton Dhaka offered buffet on 13-14 February ranging from Tk5,999 to Tk7,999 per person, but they did not get as many customers as they expected, said Shahnoor Azad, a senior official at the hotel.
Imran Hasan, secretary general of the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association, told TBS that, "Sales usually increase at restaurants at this time, but that did not happen as much as expected. However, sales at fast-food stores were higher than last year."
HM Hakim Ali, president of the Bangladesh International Hotel Association, told TBS that the number of customers has increased by about 50% this year as compared to last year.