New markets sought for growing stocks

Global Village a lifeline for traders hit by Arab Spring

GMT 05:56 2012 Tuesday ,31 January

Arab Today, arab today Global Village a lifeline for traders hit by Arab Spring

Visitors browse through home decor items in a pavilion at the Global Village.  
Dubai - Arabstoday

Visitors browse through home decor items in a pavilion at the Global Village.   At the entrance to the Global Village's Yemeni pavilion, a seller cracks open a peanut between his fingers. "Bismallah," he says, in a gesture of offering to visitors in his spice stall.Ahmad Munasir, owner of Hadramoot Spices , has participated in the Global Village's Yemeni pavilion for 12 consecutive
 years, but none has been as crucial for business as this year.
Small retailers from Arab countries hit by popular uprisings last year are seeking international exhibitions to boost their sales and clear out stocks piling up at home, Arab exhibitors at the Global Village say.
The revolutions in their home countries from Tunisia to Libya, Egypt and Yemen have slashed sales of traditional products by up to 50 per cent, exhibitors said.
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The uprisings have cost the countries involved more that $55 billion (Dh201 billion), according to a report by political risk consultancy Geopolicity.
"The crisis has reduced profits, although some people were stocking up double on basic goods like wheat and oil during the revolution, but our sales dropped by 20 per cent," Munasir said. "We are depending on our work here more than Yemen."
Exhibitors are capitalising on their presence at the Global Village to market their products to other wholesalers in the UAE. "I've been getting calls to export our spices from Yemen to the Gulf," said Munasir, who has three stalls here.
Transport costs
Since the uprising in Yemen, the prices of spices and other commodities shot up, but transport costs increased three-fold due to fuel price hikes, traders said. "We did not add these costs on to the prices because people won't accept a price increase, so our profit margins were squeezed," Munasir added.
Hamid Al Maliki, owner of the Sana'a-based store Throne of Bees, is hoping for buzzing business here.
"The market in Yemen for honey and other goods is suffering after the revolution. Our sales have dropped by half in the last year," he said.
Exhibitions such as the Global Village and others in the Gulf provide a platform for small retailers to market these traditional commodities that are slow-moving in the sluggish economies of the Arab Spring countries.
Ahmad Mohammad, owner of the Sana'a Yemen Centre for Spices, has seen a 40 per cent drop in Yemeni coffee and spice sales back home.
But business at the pav-ilion, where he has participated for 10 years, is to his liking. He makes up for lost sales back home with repeat customers, mostly Yemeni expatriates and Emiratis clamouring for fine Yemeni coffee and traditional spices used in biryani.
At his silverware stall, decked with curved Yemeni daggers and elaborate jewellery, Abdul Hamid Al Basha says he is not too worried about business because of his regular participation in festivals outside Yemen.
Over at the temple-shaped Egyptian pavilion, a visitor wearing a Pharaoh's costume poses by a golden war chariot at the Phaoronic Studio. A long line forms by the Egyptian Museum that houses replicas of the original monuments in Cairo. Visitors get their names engraved in hieroglyphics on jewellery and leather items.
Egyptian tourism revenue declined 30 per cent according to official government statistics, pulling $3.7 billion (Dh13 billion) out of the Egyptian economy, and those working in the tourism industry are feeling the economic squeeze.
For Egyptian traders selling tourism products such as papyrus and Phaoronic wares to the now-scarce tourists, international exhibitions offer some profit margin relief.
"International exhibits mean marketing for us. As wholesalers it makes all the difference when we went to Europe, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar," said Mohammad Ahmad, a salesman at Akhenaton, which sells papyrus paintings and wall tapestries.
Already, he has received orders from galleries and souqs in Dubai and Sharjah.
Last year, business in the Global Village was slower as the economic downturn shrank people's purchasing power and expatriates left after they lost their jobs, he added.
"This year, the government has increased Emiratis' salaries and eased debt burdens, so the sales are better," he said.
The Global Village and other trading platforms are a way of selling goods to tourists who did not go to Egypt last year, said Mohammad Halawa, owner of Al Zaeem, which sells Egyptian cotton gallabeyas or robes.
Expansion plans
"Egyptian cotton is a popular product, especially with people in the Gulf and those who did not go to Egypt," he said. "It doesn't matter where we sell it as long as the product sells."
He has showcased his products in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and some African and Eur-opean countries, he said.
In the Syrian pavilion sits Hussam Mua'alem, owner of an arabesque (wood and shell crafts) workshop in Damascus, amid intricately carved walnut wood vanity tables inlaid with shell designs.
"Our workshop is not affected due to the crisis and I have not laid off any craftsmen," he says, insisting there are no signs of trouble in Damascus.
It is his first year at the Global Village and already he is considering opening an office in Dubai where demand is high and he can cut out the middleman, he said.
Over at the Tunisian pavilion, traditional earthenware bowls and tagines in pink, red, blue and beige are displayed in one stall.
"We are here to introduce Tunisian products and we always participate in exhibitions worldwide. Sales are better outside," said Gehan Reihi, a sales clerk at Al Motawakil International.

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