Aslam Hossain Hiru, owner of Ahona Jewellery that has eight branches across the country, sold his Pink City Shopping Mall outlet in the capital's Gulshan-2 this June as he could not afford its maintenance costs anymore.
"I bought the space at Tk1.5 crore in 2010. The price was supposed to increase by at least two-fold by now. But, I had to sell it for only Tk1.8 crore as there were not too many buyers because of the Covid-19 pandemic," Hiru said.
Overall decline in business caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and long lockdown have thus made many businesspeople like Hiru sell their shops, commercial buildings and land to cope up with the difficulties – often to avoid the maintenance costs such as utility bills and staff salaries.
Hiru told The Business Standard that he knows eight other shop owners at the Pink City Shopping Mall who have sold their spaces in the past one and a half years.
Gausul Azam Chanchal, president of the Shop Owners' Association of Fortune Shopping Mall in Mouchak, said many shop owners are selling off their spaces even before starting businesses as they are uncertain about their business prospects amid the pandemic.
Md Aminul Hoque Shamim, vice-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries, said, "Traders are most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. As there is no significant support from the government for medium and small traders, they are not able to cope with the loss. So many are leaving the business and struggling to make ends meet. They are closing down their businesses and selling their commercial spaces."
Although such properties are changing hands, there are not enough buyers, and the owners are not getting expected prices.
Mamunul Islam Nahid, a Switzerland expatriate who bought Hiru's commercial space, said, "I bought the shop because I got it at a relatively low price. I will start a clothing store with my younger brother."
According to the district registrar's office and sub-registry offices in Dhaka, sales of commercial spaces, buildings and land in the first six months of this year have already crossed 82% of the previous year's figure.
According to official data, 1.16 lakh commercial spaces, buildings and land worth Tk4,300 crore were sold in Dhaka district in the January-June period of this year. About Tk350 crore revenue was collected from the registration of these properties.
In 2020, over 1.68 lakh commercial spaces, buildings and land worth about Tk5,210 crore were sold in Dhaka and the revenue collected was about Tk380 crore.
Sources at the Directorate of Registration said revenue collection from these registrations across the country was around Tk2,600 crore in the first six months this year, which is Tk1,200 crore less than the amount earned in the entire 2020, and Tk400 crore less than that of 2019.
Gausul Azam Chanchal, president of the Shop Owners' Association of Fortune Shopping Mall in Mouchak, said 17 shops were sold in the mall in the past one and a half years. Besides, owners have put up sale notices for three more shops there.
Saddam Hussein who had a clothing store named Samia Fashion in Fortune Shopping Mall said he sold the shop in October last year and bought a private car which he rents to earn a living.
On the 2nd floor of Bashundhara City Shopping Complex, four shops have put up sale notices in front of them. There are also notices to rent three shops in the food court on the 6th floor of the mall.
A marketing officer of Bashundhara City told TBS that owners of 11 shops in the mall have given notices for sale.
Dhaka District Registrar Sabikun Nahar said sales of commercial spaces, buildings and land were higher in Gulshan, Mohammadpur, Tejgaon, Paltan, Motijheel, Dhanmondi and Uttara areas than in other areas of the capital.
Fortune smiles on middlemen
The business of middlemen selling plots, flats, houses, commercial spaces and buildings has increased in recent years.
A number of middlemen said most of the commercial spaces or land sold due to the Covid-19 pandemic were being sold through them.
Nazim Ahmed, a renowned middleman in Gulshan and Tejgaon areas, told TBS that he had mediated for the sale of about 40 such spaces in the last one and a half years. Currently, he is searching for buyers for 11 commercial spaces.
He has also invested about Tk80 lakh to buy five shops in Gulshan and Tejgaon areas. He intends to sell those shops for double the price he paid for buying them.