The days of holiday bazaars creating an opportunity for vendors and shoppers to get the best out of the trade seems to be left behind as the last week prior to Easter holiday saw the gates of Addis Ababa Exhibition Centre cater to a relatively small number of entrants.

The Exhibition Centre behind the Stadium area, an outright venue for entertainment and social events for several decades hosted the Easter holiday bazaar organized by Century Promotions and Commercial Nominees Plc.

The trucks and street vendors that used to grace the square to render fast food services are nowhere in sight, leaving the place to security forces, keenly observing the area.

Visitors have to pay a 100 Br entrance fee which has doubled in price from the previous holiday bazaar. The newly renovated long stairs to the exhibition centre wait for visitors with bright lights and numerous banners hoisted at both sides carrying the emblem of the prime sponsor Ethiotelecom.

A series of booths are occupied by financial institutions and real estate companies beside the gates, where visitors must pass the energetic clerks urging them to open bank accounts.

Vacant booths are erected before reaching the congested corridor occupied by vendors selling textile products, home appliances, cooking ingredients and cultural clothing.

The long-time friends and neighbours Meseret and Lina came to the bazaar from the Bole Arabsa area on the outskirts of the capital, hoping to buy clothes and durable home appliances. They were dismayed over the limited alternatives on top of the price hike.

Meseret Gebeyehu had 10,000 Br with her, more than the amount she usually takes, anticipating the inflationary market. She planned to buy holiday clothing for her three children and a steam cooker. However, the prices at the bazaar went beyond her expectation, compelling her to withdraw an additional 4,000 Br from her account.

They decided to leave the scene early as the shopping was futile compared to the long commute to their home.

Foreigners try to lure and explain their products to customers in a broken Amharic.

One of the Indian salespersons, Adel complains the market is not going well. He attributes the slow pace of sales to the fasting season, leaving people to focus on spirituality rather than shopping. His Nigerian partner of two years, Sade concurs.

He said that Easter bazaars are usually slower in terms of sales and the number of people attending the exhibition.

"The Christmas bazaar before three months was better," he told Fortune. “We're hoping to make the last days of sales count."

Shoppers are apprehensive over the prices that saw an increase equivalent to the market outside. The exhibition used to be a primal destination for the urbanites where they perceived to find relatively lower prices and quality products for the holiday.

Senait Mitku and Zelalem Shiferaw were roaming around the corridors carrying their sleeping toddler. They were met with a price tag for a pair of trousers ranging from 1300-1700 Br.

“It's more expensive here,” said Zelalem. He does not get the relevance of hosting bazaars if everything is on the pricy side.

Vendors concur that the price of goods has not seen a discount owing to the event organizers who increased rental prices.

The bed sheet and blanket vendor Mensud admits the complaints from shoppers on the increasing prices are legitimate. According to him, vendors are induced to raise the price of goods because of the stringent payment arrangements set out by the event organizers.

Another vendor shares the same conviction regarding the significant price rise witnessed in goods. She claimed to have paid 80,000 Br for a nine square metre booth for the New Year's bazaar, which now costs 120,000 Br. She doubts whether she can recover her expenses or not.

"We paid the booth rent in lump sums unlike the prior experiences of 25pc instalment payments," she said.

The event organizers bagged the exclusive right to host the grand holiday bazaar for 30 million Br winning the bid organised by the Exhibition Centre & Market Development Enterprise, a public enterprise under the City Administration.

Shoppers have an alternative five kilometres from the exhibition centre.

Millennium Hall hosts a similar event on its 19,000 sqm space organised by Habesha Weekly.

The entrance ticket is similar to the Exhibition Centre with the 100 Br price tag, although passing through successive checkpoints. There are life-like giant dinosaurs welcoming entrants to the hall with a roar.

Entering the hall built to accommodate over 20,000 people at once, visitors are met with electronic car dealers, cosmetics stores and décor service providers. The blocks of booths in the hall are packed with herbal beauty products, artefacts, leather products and groceries.

The vast hall has swallowed the modest number of visitors scattered all over.

Most vendors at the bazaar used their phones to cope with the boredom of not having customers. Tsehay, a saleswoman from Eco-garment, said the block used to be inundated with customers buying products all day during the previous bazaars. She believes the fasting period and lack of adequate promotion cast its shadow on the bazaar.

The increase in the price of booth rent left most booths vacant. Vendors are apprehensive about renting booths at a much lower price during the dying hours.

Meskerem, selling herbal hair treatments, said there is an increase in booth rent at every bazaar despite the market activity impeding them from garnering profits.

"Organisers should give attention to vendors even after securing their rent," she said.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 15,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1198]

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