KUWAIT: Several photos showing unusual lack of customers at some markets in Kuwait City. – Photos by Ben Garcia

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: The hospitality industry and other business sectors recorded a drastic fall in sales due to the recent coronavirus outbreak all over the world. In Kuwait, several activities planned for the National and Liberation Days were scrapped, hotel bookings were canceled and reservations for parties and speaking engagements were put on hold. This was also the case with restaurant reservations and many other community events and sporting activities.

People in Kuwait are scared of roaming around, and this has greatly affected sales at several retail shops and companies. “Just today I received a cancellation for a three-day seminar to be held in one of our ballrooms in our hotel on March 5, 6 and 7. We understand their predicament. Some reservations have been put on hold, and those who haven’t reserved have told us they will call after March 14. So for the next 15 days, we have almost zero reservations in our ballrooms,” a hotel public relations officer told Kuwait Times. “Several big activities, weddings and community gatherings were put on hold too,” he added.

Restaurants are also affected as many reservations have been cancelled. Very few people are dining at restaurants, as many prefer to order food or cook at home instead. “My average sales are KD 500 during weekdays, and on Friday, when I normally offer an ‘all you can eat’ promo, sales reach KD 1,000. But sales have been down more than 50 percent, so it’s really very alarming, and I hope it will not continue for long as we have to pay our workers regularly,” a restaurant owner said.

In Kuwait City, gold shops and some retail stores recorded a 60 to 70 percent drop in sales during the holidays. “We were expecting good sales during the five-day holiday, but sad to say sales dropped around 60-70 percent. This never happened even during wars,” said a gold shop attendant.

In Salmiya, some money exchange and remittance companies also recorded a drop in sales. “People are scared – we were supposed to have better sales in the past five days, but business was very slow. Regular customers are holding their money and will send it later, since they are not being permitted by their employers to go out because they are afraid they might get the virus and bring it along with them when they return home,” said a supervisor of a remittance company in the old souq (market).

But some items are selling briskly these days, according to some hypermarkets in Kuwait City and Salmiya – hygiene-related products. “Apart from facemasks, the fast-moving items are rubbing alcohol and sanitizers. Last Thursday, our store was penalized because we were unable to provide the rubbing alcohol needed by a Kuwaiti customer.

He wanted me to give him old products scheduled for return to a supplier, as they were substandard. The Kuwaiti thought we were hoarding the items, but in fact they were set to be returned. I ended up explaining this at the ministry with my boss, but we were penalized because we ran out of stock,” said a supervisor of a hypermarket in Kuwait City.