Although business has improved, sales are still more than 50% less than what they used to be in the pre-pandemic period
Abdul Kader is the owner of Favourite Book Centre at Islamia Book Market in the capital's Nilkhet. He has been doing business for 14 years.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, business was smooth. He has three employees in his shop.
When the government announced general holidays in late March to tackle the spread of coronavirus, his shop was shut for two months and 10 days.
"All bookstores in Nilkhet were closed at the time. We also kept our shop closed and stayed at home. I lived off my savings then. After the shutdown was lifted, I opened my store but sales were low and the money I made was not enough to maintain the expenses of my family and business," Kader told The Business Standard.
Before the pandemic, he would sell books worth more than Tk50,000 per day. But in July, sales did not exceed Tk3,000 a day. In late October, sales rose to over Tk25,000 per day.
He said, "Sales are now down 50% compared to the pre-coronavirus period. Last week, sales increased and may remain steady until November 15 because college students have started buying books. Our business will not recover until educational institutions reopen."
Another bookstore owner Mizanur Rahman Helal, also the director of Islamia Market Banik Bahumukhi Samobay Samity, said, "We are going through the most critical period in our business. My income has fallen by 80% compared to the pre-pandemic time."
"If educational institutions do not reopen, our business will not recover. We cannot pay store rents with the present earnings."
Before the pandemic, book shops in Nilkhet would buzz with customers, including students and parents, but the crowd can no longer be seen. There are only a few customers now, although stores reopened maintaining the hygiene rules after the shutdown.
The Nilkhet market has more than 400 bookstores and over 1,500 people earn their livelihoods from these businesses. There are 600 more book shops in five other markets surrounding Islamia market.
Although business has improved now, sales are still more than 50% less than what they used to be in the pre-coronavirus period, according to Islamia Market Banik Bahumukhi Samobay Samity.
Its Secretary General Mohammad Ali Akkas said, "Our business mainly depends on schools, colleges and universities. If educational institutions reopen, it will be easier to sell books."
"Our business collapsed due to the closure of educational institutions. Although some books are being sold online, the volume is insignificant because not everyone is that tech-savvy to run business on the internet," he explained.
"After talking to traders, we waived store rents for March and April. Also, store rent was waived by 30% until September. Traders are now selling books for college students, but sales are down 50% compared to the pre-pandemic period," Akkas added.