Pandemic pushing businesses to the edge


BUSINESSES have seen it all throughout the many versions of movement restrictions, from temporary closures and staff reduction to re-openings, new product launches and permanent shutterings.

Some small businesses managed to pull through, while others are hanging by a thread, or worse.

In the food and beverage industry, Bolet Dim Sum restaurant which specialised in homemade dumplings at the Shaftsbury Putrajaya Mall ended its journey in March this year.

Its owners Johar Johari and Hasbullah Abdullah opened the doors to Bolet Dim Sum at the mall in January 2020 with hopes to grow a brand. They did well until the pandemic hit.

Johar said the ever-changing standard operating procedures (SOPs) made it hard for them to plan business strategies and daily marketing.

“Buka puasa buffet, gatherings and family dine-ins were our biggest generated income. Before we closed down, all we could do was delay paying the rent and save from our other business, which is selling food online.

“It is not as lucrative as everyone thinks. Food delivery can never replace the income we make from dining in. As a result, we still owe the management outstanding rent,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

Johar also expressed his frustration over Shaftsbury Putrajaya Mall’s management, which lacked promotion and did not offer any rent deduction.

“Their excuse was that they were also victims of Covid-19 and the top management did not bother to understand our grief.

“To sum it up, the Movement Control Order (MCO) was just a nail in the coffin,” said Johar, who has now turned to selling curry puffs.

However, he still has hopes of opening another restaurant with an antique cafe concept.

Meanwhile, Roti John Belah Tengah owner Yusmarul Ariff is waiting until October before deciding on continuing or temporarily closing his stall in Bukit Indah, Ampang, and running his business from home.

He said business is doing okay but with MCO 3.0 and the Delta variant, he noticed lower consumer purchasing power compared to the previous MCOs.

“It really affects us hawkers even though we do not rely on dine-ins. What we can do now is to work even harder.

“I plan to sell at Jalan Dungun, which has a bigger crowd, next week while another worker takes care of our stall in Ampang. We have to do this to survive,” he told TMR.

Other businesses and services that are still not allowed to operate include spas, reflexology and massage centres, wellness centres, beauty salons, pedicure and manicure, and hair salons.

Hair Place owner Sherrie Zakaria has lost more than RM30,000 so far to pay workers’ salaries, rent, licence renewal, as well as water and electric bills, even though the salon is not open.

She said hair products have a shelf life, so they will have to be disposed of if they cannot be used.

“For now, I really depend on my savings. I also plan to sell food by the roadside to support myself and to pay rent for my house and shop.

“Even when hair salons reopen, many will not be able to get their capital and pay the workers’ salaries. This is based on salon owners’ experience in other states that have opened under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan,” she told TMR.

She believes when her hair salon re-opens, there will be many customers at first to have their long-overdue haircuts.

“But haircut service does not give us much earning compared to chemical services. If many people have lost their jobs or have had pay cuts, I do not think they will be willing to spend more money just for their hair. Over time, the number of customers will diminish,” she lamented.