KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Even before Malaysia’s first Hari Raya Aidilfitri without the pandemic restrictions, some bazaar traders said sales this year not only has recovered but may even have surpassed some years prior to Covid-19.
Despite the drizzle when Malay Mail visited Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Jalan TAR) in the capital city, the street was bustling with vendors selling goods and apparel for Aidilfitri.
Just before iftar, the sunset meal with which Muslims break their fast, patrons thronged the street both in search of places to eat and for items to buy for their Aidilfitri celebrations this year.
As Raya tunes played in the background, 22-year-old Muhammad Rijalul Haq from Rqal Exclusive said sales of their baju Melayu, the traditional Malay outfit typically worn by men during Aidilfitri, has gone off the charts and was unmistakably better than the previous two years.
Gesturing animatedly as he spoke, Rijalul said this could be the store’s best year in terms of sales, due to the number of patrons to the area that were beyond his imagination.
“It is absolutely unbelievable that we managed to sell so many baju Melayu and we absolutely did not expect such a crowd on the first day when we opened the store; we needed to restock everything for the next day!
“I can even say that this year’s (sales) performance was even better than the past four or five years and after what happened for the past couple of years, it is absolutely relieving, not just for me, but the whole business community here at Jalan TAR,” he said while modelling the baju Melayu he sold.
Nearby, 24-year-old trader Muhammad Hapis Mohd Syafarudin tended to his stall selling traditional outfits including baju Melayu and baju kurung, the traditional Malay outfit for women, in sizes catering from toddlers to adult.
Taking a break to speak with Malay Mail, Hapis said he could finally breathe a sigh of relief this year, after restrictions such as crowd limits and travel bans put a damper on the Aidilfitri celebrations from 2020.
This year, he said shoppers were back with a vengeance, likely due to their willingness to once again shop in person because of the country’s high vaccination rate.
“Compared to the past few years, even before the pandemic, I think this is one of the best years for me and my sister and I have been here selling these since I was 18 years’ old.
“I think the people are more confident to go out and shop despite the fact that the cases are still in four figures because of the vaccination rate and less stringent rules (to contain the spread of Covid-19),” he told Malay Mail in between dealing with a customer.
For the past two years, Putrajaya had set strict public health measures to flatten the infection curve of Covid-19, which in turn heavily curtailed business activities.
This particularly affected seasonal traders such as those catering to festivals such as Aidilfitiri that took place only once each year.
While such bazaars are back in full swing, courtesy of the federal government effectively removing most restrictions as part of the country’s transition to Covid-19 endemicity, some said there have been lasting changes.
According to Fatin Farhanah Ahmad Jamili, 28, who sold traditional cookies and biscuits for Aidilfitri, this year’s bazaar was set up differently to the past couple years when changes had been instituted to prevent crowds from forming.
“Previously, the bazaar was divided into three or four sections and everyone had to queue, sometimes for an hour, just to get in one of the sections. And sometimes they just went to one of the sections and were too tired to go to other sections.
“But now, with no limits to how many people can walk in and the way it was set up — like the before pandemic, as in just one long street filled with vendors — people can just walk back and forth freely and browse through the street as long as they want.
“Very convenient for them and very helpful for traders. Obviously a win-win situation,” she explained to Malay Mail.
Lively shopping with continued compliance
Despite preventive measures already easing at the time, Malay Mail still observed People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) officers controlling traffic and enforcing MySejahtera check-ins.
Also present were Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) enforcers urging patrons to maintain physical distance from each other and wore face masks. Both measures will no longer be mandatory come May 1.
With her family of five in tow, 59-year-old Normala Nordin spoke to Malay Mail while browsing through a rack of blouses with her granddaughter, and said it is definitely more festive heading into Aidilfitri this year.
People are clearly more excited for Hari Raya after two years of muted celebrations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.
“I’m here with my family and my besan all the way from Port Dickson here shopping for Raya and seeing a lot of people back in the bazaar to shop reminded me of the old days, before the pandemic,” she said, using the Malay word meaning one’s child’s in-laws.
“I think people are definitely willing to spend more as now we can go back to our hometown and celebrate Raya like the good old days with less restrictions.”
But not all were splurging to make up for the previous two years. Mohd Ashkhalani Apriabi, 34, who was doing his final rounds for Aidilfitri preparation with his children, said it is important to stay moderate to avoid overspending.
Despite all the hype and excitement surrounding this year’s celebration, he said that it is not necessary to shop extravagantly as doing so does not reflect the true spirit of Aidilfitri.
“I understand that people have missed Hari Raya so much but still need to be careful about spending all their money just for the preparation.
“I am not trying to be some sort of a killjoy or anything but to me Hari Raya is more like a rejoice after a month of Ramadan but in a more of a moderate manner,” he said while holding his son’s hand.