Informal traders struggle to recover from lockdown

A half empty Greenmarket Square

Informal traders in the CBD are struggling to survive the Covid-19 lockdown.

Even after the restrictions were eased to include alcohol trading hours, which opened more businesses in the city centre, traders in Adderley Street, on Greenmarket Square and on the Grand Parade say they cannot even make enough money to pay a day’s rent.

The CapeTowner visited the markets on Thursday February 18, where only a few stalls could be seen trading with little to no passing footfall from which to attract customers.

On the Greenmarket Square, Peter Babynga said traders started returning to the market two months ago, but they have too few customers to even cover rent for the day.

He said Greenmarket Square depends on foreigners and tourists to generate income, however, with the borders closed due to the lockdown, no one buys their products, the majority of which are South African clothing items, trinkets and souvenirs.

“The locals are hardly interested, and we don’t see any tourists. The restaurants are even lifeless. We need some marketing or promotion, because at the end of the day, this is all we have to survive.

A trader in Adderley Street, who did not want to be named, said it was hard, as they sometimes go a week without making a sale. “We aren’t getting any sort of promotion. Most people are working from home and there are no foreigners.”

There is little to know customers at the Grand Parade to support traders.

On the Grand Parade, traders Likele Tonny and Maria Ekenta said business was terrible.

Mr Tonny said: “ We cannot even afford to put food on our tables. There aren’t many people walking through to the transport hub. Our locals were our biggest customers, but now it is quiet. It will be better for us if people came back to work.

Ms Ekenta said she wishes she had another way to earn an income, but her stall was all she had, and it was hard to earn a living.

“People don’t have money to spend – some have lost their jobs and others are just at home.”

Fadwa Sasman said the flower sellers are struggling to make ends meet.

Even the famous flower sellers said they were struggling, with only at around six traders at Trafalgar Place.

Fadwa Sasman said while they still get orders for weddings and funerals, people didn’t want to come out and would go to the main retailers for flowers, because they wanted to do all their shopping in one go.

She said tourists and groups used to visit Trafalgar Place mainly to take pictures of the iconic market, but the lack of locals in the city due to most people working from home were their biggest challenge.

Ms Sasman pointed to the half empty market: “It’s pointless that we come in, because we can’t sell anything – its difficult.

While all the traders agreed that they needed some sort of promotion, they said they were unaware of the the City Central Improvement District’s (CCID’s) Come back to Town Campaign.

The campaign, which was launched last October, promotes businesses in the CBD, with reasons for customers to return to the area posted on social media or billboards.

Asked if the campaign promotes informal trading, CCID chief executive officer Tasso Evangelinos said the campaign aims to reinvigorate the Cape Town CBD economy so that all CBD retailers, including informal traders, can survive the harsh economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If there are more people in town, the informal traders will automatically benefit from the increased footfall.

“In December we promoted stories encouraging visitors – local and national – to come back to town to enjoy what it has to offer, and part of the campaign has been to encourage office workers to return to work, which will also benefit the traders.”

He said the Greenmarket Square traders and the Adderley Street flower sellers have been included in the campaign messaging on social media.

The City, the custodians of the local markets, said to support the informal traders, they have provided them with Covid-19 toolkits comprising of three sanitisers, three masks, social distancing decals, and Covid-19 information booklets to ensure that traders do business in a safe environment and protect themselves and their customers.

Asked about promoting the local markets, the City’s Mayoral committee member for urban management, Grant Twigg, said while it capacitates informal businesses through various training programmes, it was not within the City’s mandate to promote individual businesses to gain more customers.

“The City is doing all that is in its power, given the limited resources, to review strategies on how it can further assist informal traders affected by Covid-19 across the city.”