Christmas is a shopping holiday. There is no religious celebration that is mostly dedicated to exchanging gifts, and indulging in excessive decorations. In Ethiopia, shopping bazaars opens around the holidays. It is a custom for a lot of people to go to exhibition centers and to do their holiday shopping. Especially as the holiday draws nearer, the shopping bazaars become increasingly overcrowded hosting shoppers way beyond their capacity. Shopping booths at holiday bazaars usually include all kinds of products from kitchenware to clothes and other furniture. It also includes entertainment packages for both adults and children such as musical concerts and playgrounds. This year, the two main known holiday bazaars were organized at the Meskel Square Addis Ababa Exhibition and Market Development Center and Addis Park’s the Millennium Hall.
The exhibition that was organized at Millennium Hall was hosted by Jorka Events. Tadesse Tamrat, public relations of Jorka Events, told The Reporter that his organization’s humble beginnings can be traced back to organizing musical concerts in Addis Ababa before jumping into shopping bandwagon: exhibitions and trade fares. This is the 5th Bazaar display with Ethio-Addis business exhibition for Christmas. The Bazaar includes many things and among that gift shops and playgrounds for children are the most important ones. As can be seen, Millennium Hall is huge and there is a huge parking space and it is also very safe. Tadesse said that at least 15,000 people come daily for this Christmas exhibition. He explained that the entrance fee is 40 birr, which is a standard fee. Tadesse told The Reporter that there were estimated 320 shops and 70 percent are locally owned while the rest are from all over the world. Tadesse said that they wanted to improve the situation of exhibitions in Ethiopia. Compared to other countries, so far what we are not doing is a lot. We try to discuss with the sellers in order to provide a discount for our customers. We want our customers to be happy. The main advantage of bazaar is that you find a lot of stuff at one place with a discounted price, according to Tadesse.
One of the businesses that were present at the Millennium Hall was an Indian Kitchen tools seller. Jidshan Ahmed had 11 stands and around 22 employees. They had presented many different kitchen items and garments for both women and men. Jidshan told The Reporter, they have been in Addis Ababa for 6 years and they have been doing exhibitions in 10 other cities, like Mekelle, Bahirdar, Arba Minch, Awasa and others. According to Jidshan, business this time around is very slow. He told The Reporter that he isn’t sure if this was because of political issues but some people come; however, not many people are purchasing stuff this holiday. “Earlier, we used to get a lot of feedback and a lot of people will come to buy products; but nowadays, I don’t know what is happening. People are coming but they are hesitant to spend money,” he told The Reporter. According to Jidshan, the rent for one small stand is around 50,000 birr, which is affordable if business is well but this time round, he says loss is inevitable. However, the space given was very good, complimenting the team that organized the event and the cleaning staff, as well as the electricity. He shared his feedback with The Reporter saying that the organizers should try to make it more attractive to more people as many events are held at the millennium hall these days and he added that, “those functions interrupt us and the public, whenever they want to come, some events are held around here and they don’t want to come here as they feel uncomfortable. And this is impacting our businesses”. He concluded by saying he loved Ethiopia and people are very friendly as well as he would love to continue participating in exhibitions again and again.
Another participant at the bazaar held at Millennium Hall is Abel Haile, who was selling imported rice, flour and other products. He told The Reporter, that people are coming to the bazaar but many just ask about the products and don’t buy stuff as their capability to buy is less. “Most of the products that are displayed in these shops are expensive and most customers only buy what they came for or don’t spend more than 150 – 200 birr”. He said that the economy of the country is probably affecting this, since foreign currency is in short supply and that makes things (imported things) pricier. Abel told The Reporter, rental prices at the Millennium Hall are becoming affordable compared to other places, as one booth is rented for 50,000 birr. “For instance, compared to the bazaar at Meskel Square, this is cheaper, however, that bazaar has more customers than here since that Meskel Square is more established exhibition spot than the Hall; and hence more customers,” he said.
Unlike the bazaars held at Millennium Hall, the Meskel Square one was overcrowded and had many more shops. The entrance fee as well was slightly higher owing to the optioned offered there. Bazaars have been held at Meskel Square for quite a while and people are more accustomed to going there compared to other places like Millennium Hall.
Niam Kedir, a participant at the Meskel Square exhibition, has different accessories and quality t-shirts available for sale. She told The Reporter, “Working at a bazaar is really hard. Most people usually focus on the price rather than the quality; however, some who know about the quality buys the products”. She explained to The Reporter space rental is around 90,000 birr per 9 sq. meters at the center; and this could be affordable for organizations but for private business, it is a bit expensive. Niam said, “We have offered many products that are affordable. We do plan to come again but in order to promote the business not much for the profit”. She mentioned that she wished that bathrooms were kept cleaner for the next time. She also expressed her concern on the entrance fee. “We tried to create a committee and talk to the event organizers to minimize the entrance fee because it kept increasing from around 20 birr up to 50 birr at the final week,” she told The Reporter.
Unlike some stands, Habesha clothing seemed to have a buzz going around its booth. A clothing store Derakilintos based in Shashemene, was also exhibiting many different kinds of traditional clothes. Mekdes Markos, who works at the store, said that business was good. She told The Reporter, that there was another branch of the store at the bazaar, located at Millennium Hall. According to Mekdes, both had a similar amount of sales. “Since epiphany is approaching, there are many buyers,” she said. She concluded by complimenting the event organizers for the facilities and the overall care for the businesses.
Customers were see flocking at Meskel Square from early morning to evening, especially during the last week of the holiday, Genet, who frequently goes to such bazzars during holidays, told The Reporter that she and her friends were at the verge of not going to the exhibition because of the entrance fee. She noted that she knew many people who didn’t end up going to the exhibitions because of the entrance fee. She said that the entrance fee increases every time; every holiday. “The entrance fee for both exhibitions is outrageous considering that you do not get anything in exchange and it is not like most items sold there are any cheaper than the usual market”.
This year’s Christmas bazzaar at Meskel Square was hosted by Sisya Aderssie promotions and Commercial Nominees Plc. Sisay commented, “We increase the price because it is also expensive for us to host these exhibitions and we also bring in many famous entertainers like Jano band who performed here for the first time”. He told The Reporter that they increased the entrance fee because they wanted to target people who really wanted to come to the exhibition to buy stuff. He said the increased price especially at the end is in order to filter out people who do not come for pure intentions and in order to control the flow of people that come to the exhibition. Sisay told The Reporter, that there is a lot of work to be done in this sector of festivals. In many other countries, it attracts tourists like Dubai. Here in Ethiopia there is not much entertainment for adults other than bars and clubs. So this kind of bazaars should be promoted more and get more attention.
Ed.’s Note: Sesina Hailou is on an internship at The Reporter.
Contributed by Sesina Hailou