Before Chinese New Year, Malaysia’s traders predicted a sales boom, but the MCO dented their expectations.

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KUALA LUMPUR: Traders in Kuala Lumpur and beyond who expected a busy season leading up to the Chinese New Year are now preparing for possible losses, after the government has again imposed a Movement Control Order (MCO) in almost all states to resolve an increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

When reporters visited Petaling Lane, the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur, last week, it was unusually quiet, with just a few shops open. They denied being interviewed.

The area will usually be replete with pedestrians and closed to vehicular traffic. Shoppers will normally throng the area to buy festive products in the weeks before Chinese New Year.

In Malaysia’s first MCO, implemented in mid-March last year to curb the spread of COVID-19, Petaling Street was previously shut down.

However, as the run-up to the Chinese New Year is typically one of the busiest and most lucrative seasons for Petaling Street traders, this second MCO levied after Jan 13 is a bolt from the blue.

Among the few businesses that were operating in the vicinity was Fung Wong confectionery shop along Jalan Hang Lekir, off the main Petaling Route.

Mr Melvin Chan, the proprietor of the fourth generation, said that since the start of the MCO, business has fallen drastically. He told reporters in the afternoon of the interview that the shop had a total of 12 walk-ins after opening at 8 a.m.

The rest come in only to buy a few boxes of biscuits or cakes. By this time, people usually come away with bags of biscuits in both hands, even on numerous trips,’ he said.

Sales were down by up to 95 per cent overall, he said. His case, however, was not as bad as others, including those selling bak kwa (barbecued slices of pork), he added.

“Really, for them, the Chinese New Year is often the highest sales time, and many stalls here rely on walk-ins.”

Since the second half of 2020, he has been playing with online sales and marketing himself, but it was always a hit and miss in terms of attracting customers.

Honestly, every day I open for business, I lose money – I still pay staff salaries, utilities, ingredients and waste,” said Mr. Chan.”

Steven Tan, a walk-in customer, said he was a regular for the store’s baked goods, coming around when he felt the urge because he knew Fung Wong would always be open in his own words.

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