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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Report: Neighborhood market stores in Qatar struggle to attract customers

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Model of Al Furjan market
Model of Al Furjan market

Shop owners in some of Qatar’s Al Furjan neighborhood markets have appealed to authorities to reduce their rents as they struggle to make ends meet, according to local media reports.

Some said they are struggling to attract enough customers to cover their costs, especially in the markets located in more remote areas, and have asked the government to cut their QR6,000 monthly rent in half, Qatar Tribune reports.

The newspaper quoted the owner of Tahama Dates, Honey & Spices as saying that high costs meant the small shops in the market were unable to offer competitive prices with supermarkets and bigger stores.

He continued:

“How can we offer our customers lower prices than other shops when we don’t have the economic viability to do so? If the government can decrease our monthly rent from QR6,000 to, say, QR3,000 at least for a 12-month period we can then use the saving in costs to lower our prices and maybe even spend money on marketing and advertising to attract more customers.”

The owner said he had been running his shop at a loss since it opened six months ago, blaming its remote location, lack of customer traffic and heavy costs for employees’ salaries and utilities.

Other store owners voiced similar concerns, the newspaper added.

Past problems

This is not the first time shopkeepers have complained about problems at the markets.

In 2014, local business owners also said that the QR6,000 price was too steep.

Still from promotional video for markets
Still from promotional video for markets

However, the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim Al Thani said at the time that the markets would contribute to correcting prices of essential commodities and provide shops with reasonable rents.

Roadworks also appears to be posing an issue. In March last year, shop owners at one recently-constructed market in Al Thameed, near Bani Hajer on the western edge of Doha, said that they saw few customers due to ongoing construction of access roads to the site, the Peninsula reported.

A few months later, employees expressed frustration after the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) reportedly asked bakeries and other food establishments to remove staff toilets from their site, before they could be given an operating license.

There were no public toilets in the area that staff could use instead.

Market idea

The Al Furjan (plural of Arabic Fereej, meaning neighborhood) market concept was first launched by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) in mid-2013 to create commercial complexes particularly in outlying areas.

Al Furjan markets
Al Furjan markets

Designed in a local architectural style, each complex aimed to bring together bakeries, grocery stores, laundry services, banking options, pharmacies and other outlets in one place, for the convenience of local residents.

Publicly funded, the project is a collaboration between the MMUP Qatar Development Bank (QDB), Qatar Chamber and the Central Bank (QCB). The markets are run by Waseef, a subsidiary of Barwa Real Estate, and Ezdan Real Estate.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

They were designed to be built in phases, with a total of 44 complexes and 645 individual shops planned at the end of the project, MEC said.

In addition to reducing traffic in Doha, officials said they hope the initiative helps bolster Qatar’s economy.

Each complex has around a dozen stores and government land for the markets was allocated in areas including in Al Thumama, Ain Khaled, Hazm Al Markhiya and Laqtifia.

Due to high demand from potential shop owners, the government allocated the store plots through an electronic lottery system, which opened in May 2014, with the first successful traders were announced in November that year.

More than 4,500 Qatari-owned companies applied to the lottery.

Do you visit shops in the markets? Thoughts?

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