Sales of calendars and diaries are still bearing the brunt of the Covid fallout, with only a 20% of the businesses turning around.
The three months from November to January are the peak period for the particular business, but traders fear a further setback.
According to the sector people, their business plummeted down to almost a zero during the March-September period in the wake of the pandemic.
They said the calendar-diary sale season is underway, but sale is still lackluster. Only 20% of their business has got back to normal.
The traders expect their sales to reach 40% by January and might nosedive if the pandemic takes a severe turn.
According to Bangladesh Printing Products Association, the market for calendars, diaries and notebooks is around Tk1,500 crore while about two lakh people are employed in this sector.
The sector people said before the onset of coronavirus, they used to deal in those stationeries worth around Tk100 crore on an average every year.
Of the total volume, calendar business accounts for 30%, diaries another 30%, notepads 20% and wedding cards also 20%.
According to the businessmen, more than 70% of calendars, diaries, notepads and wedding cards are sold during the peak season from November to January.
Paper traders say their business runs well this season as paper is used in calendars, diaries and notepads at the end of the year, but throughout 2020, they had been reeling from Covid shocks and plunged into financial crisis.
We sold more than 2,00,000 calendars and over 50,000 diaries during this period a year ago, but so far, we have not received even a quarter order compared to the previous year's
Proprietor of Amin Products Amin Uddin told The Business Standard, "We sold more than 2,00,000 calendars and over 50,000 diaries during this period a year ago, but so far, we have not received even a quarter order compared to the previous year's."
"I am skeptical as to whether we will be able make sales half the amount of that last year," said Amin.
He attributed the impact of austerity measures taken by private banks, insurance companies and various financial institutions to the decline in their business.
Bashundhara Paper Mills Company Secretary Majedur Rahman told TBS that paper business saw an upward trend at the end of the year because of calendars, diaries and notebooks. "But due to Covid-19, our business is in tumble along with that of calendars, diaries and notebooks," added the official.
A household name in the country for printing calendars, diaries and notepads is Azad Products wherein works a total of 150 employees.
The company has shuttered its showrooms in Bogura, Khulna and Mymensingh due to the crisis in the wake of the pandemic.
Abul Kalam Azad, managing director of the company, said even then, he is struggling to pay his remaining employees.
Azad told The Business Standard during the Bengali New Year, they usually sell Bengali calendars worth Tk20-Tk25 lakh, but last Baishakh festival witnessed a total calendar sale worth Tk3-Tk4 lakh only.
"Every year there is a demand to print 30-35 lakh English calendars of different sizes and 50-60 thousand diaries whereas this year I have got an order of printing only 10,000 diaries," he gave an account.
Narrating his comparative experience, Abul Kalam Azad said every year at this time, he comes across a huge rush of orders in his shop, but this year is the only exception.
"I am getting only 6-7 orders per day now."
"Last year, I made about Tk2 crore sale. It is doubtful whether this year the sale will cross Tk50 lakh," he made an apprehension.
Majid Mia, owner of Shanta Traders in Fakirapul, said he had two shops, but one is closed for card business.
The other shop he has dedicated for selling biriyani, said the businessman.
Bad days for wedding card traders
Even though the economy is back to normal, weddings and other social functions are not taking place very often which has hit the sector people very hard.
A reputed company well-known for selling wedding cards is Ideal Products that is going through a rough patch.
Starting in 1960, the company has the most reputation in the market for printing wedding cards.
Earlier, we used to entertain orders of 800 to 1,000 wedding cards at our Paltan branch every day, but the number of order is now around 50.
Nazrul Islam Khan, general manager of Ideal, said 10 of their 14 showrooms are now shut.
"Earlier, we used to entertain orders of 800 to 1,000 wedding cards at our Paltan branch every day, but the number of order is now around 50."
Nazrul said earlier, there were 10 employees in their showroom, the number of which has come down to four only.
"This situation is not only ours, but also everyone's involved in printed wedding card business."
Bangladesh Printing Products Association General Secretary Mohammad Shahjahan told TBS they never thought of plunging into such a quagmire.
He gave an account that nearly 40 shops have got their shutter down while some 500 people have lost their jobs due to the raging pandemic.