The shoe industry logs one third of the annual sales ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. Hoping for maximum return, businessmen make preparations to grab the market.
This year, sales before the festival could make up part of the loss incurred throughout the year because of the pandemic, but the lockdown extended to 28 April slimed the possibility. Shops are closed and customers and shoemakers alike are confined to their homes.
There are as many as 500 shoemakers, including more than 15 well-known brands, in the country. The market is rather dominated by small companies, employing a few hundreds of thousands of men and women.
Though multinational footwear company Bata has huge popularity, a dozen local companies have developed their capacity over the last few decades to meet the local demand.
The market expanded, as the economy grew, at a rate of 12-15% a year before the pandemic broke out in the country. After registering a decline in the annual growth last year, businessmen were looking forward to overcoming their losses this year.
The local well-known manufacturers include Apex Footwear, Orion, Bay, Jennys, Fortune Shoes, Fortuna, Hamco, Crescent, Vibrant, Leatherex, STEP, Walkar, Falcon, Zeils and Shampan.
Products are sold from outlets of these established brands throughout the year, but small companies depend mostly on festivals.
Apex Footwear's business was down last year because of the coronavirus. About 30-40% of its annual sales target is achieved before Pahela Baishakh (the first day of Bangla new year) and Eid-ul-Fitr.
Officials of the company are concerned over business because they are facing a similar situation this year.
Md Omar Faruque, company secretary of Apex, said, "The export of shoes [by Apex] is not picking up. We were basically surviving through local sales."
Apex with 200 outlets across the country endured a huge loss last year. Targeting the season, the company has rolled out new products this year.
"What will we do with the stock now!" Faruque said.
Lockdown hits shoe industry again as it started recovering
A strict lockdown around this time last year ruined the business of the industry before Eid. Outlets remained shut for two months.
After the restriction on public movement was lifted, shoemakers saw a gradual increase in sales. At the end of 2020, shoe business gained its pre-pandemic pace.
But as the government announced another lockdown from 14 April to contain the second wave of the pandemic, the industry feels threatened again. All activities are forbidden except for emergency services.
"Eid season is the peak time for sales. But we are going to miss this season for the second consecutive year," said Md Saifur Rahman, proprietor of Naz shoes.
Companies take loans for production, he said, adding that they had faced difficult situations over repayment of loans and now they were also worried over making payments of workers' salaries.