The looming of the New Year inspires people to say ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ Consumers buy supplies that would get them started for the year, people tending to buy in bulks especially in these uncertain times. Thankfully, the New Year’s bazaar has returned to its original location at the Addis Ababa Exhibition Center, after a year of relocation due to the pandemic, and renovations that were taking place.
The Addis Ababa Exhibition Center is an autonomous state-owned enterprise accountable to the Addis Ababa City Administration.
The Center organizes and hosts both international and domestic exhibitions, trade fairs, shows of various kinds and offers advice to organizers whenever it is requested. The Center also provided a service of leasing its multi-purpose Pavilion, Tukules and an open-air area along with displays and partition materials for local and foreign exhibition and trade fair organizers.
Providing a dynamic retail, food and beverage amenities, office space, cultural and entertainment facilities, the design of this development incorporates the existing adjacent Addis Ababa Museum, providing an iconic destination retail, entertainment and cultural environment.
This year is no exception to the annual bazar fest; the New Year’s Eve Grand Bazaar and Festival opened on the 19th of August 2021 and will stay open till the eve of the Ethiopian new year which is 10th of September 10, 2021. This event includes a mix of activities such as various contests, cultural and modern musical performances and a multi-faceted bazaar.
It is expected that the number of exhibitors who occupy a minimum of 9 m2 booths, will be about 400 and the average number of daily visitors is about 10,000. However, the dwindled number of visitors compared to the previous years displeases the retailers at the bazaar. Nevertheless, that has not stopped them from providing goods at lower prices than the outside market; some exhibitors were even willing to sell their products at the same price they would have provided it to the supermarkets.
“Consumers who have visited the bazaar leave pleased with the things they have bought; most visitors do not leave without purchasing Tana edible oil,” said Genet Ligaba, a consumer at the bazar leaving with three jars of oil. Genet was shocked by the disparity between edible oil prices in and outside of the bazaar. Genet said she did not think she would find edible oil at this price, at this time of the year.
“Primarily I thought the entrance fee was too expensive, however once I found these products, I honestly felt like it was worth it.” Even though the edible oil is not the imported kind most consumers are used to, it is a locally made high quality brand with a 32 percent price difference from the local market outside the bazaar.
Among the things that make this year’s bazaar stand out is the fact that there is a free vaccination against COVID 19 for anyone above 18 years of age at the gates and every booth had a telebirr recipient.
Telebirr representatives helped customers open their own accounts at the gate; once customers are inside the bazaar, they can buy whatever they want without having to carry cash around. However, even with this assistive tool, customers were not seen splurging as much as they did in previous years.
Hollywood cosmetics stand is among the retailers at the bazaar. Tigist Worku, a sales representative for Hollywood cosmetics, stated that the lack of active customers could have something to do with the lack of money amongst many customers.
She told The Reporter “The cost of living has sky rocketed; honestly, I don’t blame people for not spending money on non-essential goods at this point. All my products are not essential; they are useful but they are things one can do without. Imagine what sort of position that puts me under. Most of the customers spend more on food items rather than cosmetics. They’d tell me they can’t afford to buy products I am selling yet; funny enough they’d go to the bars over there to have some beer and enjoy the music.”
Looking around, the exhibition had lots of foreign retailers from Asia and Europe. Amongst them was Bursel Shirts, a high-quality shirt brand provider from Turkey. The company has set up three booths at the Center, and is selling original branded shirts for men. Hermela Alemu, a sales representative amongst the 30 sales representatives for the company, told The Reporter that business is lower than what she has been told.
“Though a lot of people come through and ask questions, most of them are not willing to purchase. I mean this is good for promotion but the actual sales are not that fast paced here. Our products are high quality, but quality is the least of the customers’ concern from what I’ve seen. People want cheap and durable which is hard to attain,” Hermela highlighted
Product diversity has also decreased at this year’s bazaar with some retailers claiming they could only import certain products due to the lack of cash flow in the country. Feben Gebrehiwot from Qatar Bazer trading, an importer of dairy and food products from the Saudi Arabia, told The Reporter that this year’s exhibition does not feel as lively as it used to be. The company has exhibited its products last year at an exhibition held at Mechare Meda, and she recalls that it had more traction than this year’s bazaar.
“Even at the height of the pandemic, business was better than what it is today. I don’t think the decrease in customers is due to the pandemic. I think it has more to do with the unaffordability of living costs. Our products have reasonable low prices, but due to the lack of cash flow, our products are limited this year. All in all, it hasn’t been easy,” said Feben.
Exhibitions have become Addis Ababa’s major holiday tradition; it is one of the most useful methods to introduce products into the market, which has made it an important sector in today’s business world. Before the pandemic struck multiple bazaars were trending, with some being international trade fairs, others small business exhibitions and the likes. This year saw its fair share of small business exhibitions that masked themselves as pop-up sales that only lasted for the weekends. Even those pop-up sales were organized for high-end customers though, exhibiting luxury items for sell.
Contributed by Yosthena Aynalem