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Sombre Raya for many as pockets shrink and prices rise

Some are considering whether to make the trip back to their home towns while traders say sales have been down.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Customers look at new clothes for Hari Raya at the Aidilfitri bazaar in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur.
Customers look at new clothes for Hari Raya at the Aidilfitri bazaar in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a festival celebrated each year by millions of Muslims in Malaysia, is normally marked by new clothes, special dishes and long-awaited trips to see family and relatives back home. 

This year, though, festivities appear to be dampened by a combination of factors including financial constraints, economic challenges and a drop in purchasing power. 

Even at Ramadan and Aidilfitri bazaars – a symbol of the fasting month and the preparations leading up to Hari Raya – traders have noticed a difference from previous years. 

In the Klang Valley alone, thousands of tonnes of food was wasted at bazaars as would-be customers stayed away or cut down on their purchases. 

Pak Nordin, who operated a stall at the Seri Kembangan Ramadan bazaar in Selangor, said the trend had been obvious from the start.

"From the first day of Ramadan, we realised that things were different," he said.

"Customers wouldn't spend more than RM10 on food."

Nordin, who sold chicken with spices and tomato rice, said some of his friends had been forced to close shop as much as a week before the end of Ramadan. 

"They just couldn't turn a profit," he added. 

The same could be seen at Aidilfitri bazaars, where traders waited in vain for customers.

And where there were crowds, sales were not necessarily guaranteed. 

"Sales have been low because many people are trying to be thrifty," a sales assistant at a shoe shop in Kuala Terengganu said. 

"It used to be that people would keep pouring into the shop until evening. Now, by afternoon things are quiet." 

Family financial expert Mohamad Fazli Sabri said hope remained for sales, given the Raya aid recently announced for civil servants. 

But he advised customers to spend their money wisely. 

"Figure out your priorities and spend according to need," Fazli of Universiti Putra Malaysia said. 

"If you can, avoid buying things at the last minute." 

Some meanwhile, mindful of their limited finances, remained undecided on whether to return to their home towns.

Those like Mohamd Fazli, however, considered it a must. 

"If you can't drive, think about taking public transport or carpooling with friends or relatives," he said. 

Back at the Ramadan bazaar, Nordin said he would understand if this year's Raya was not as upbeat as the celebrations in previous years. 

"People don't have money, and their savings are limited. 

"Even things for the kitchen are expensive and people are unhappy."