Eid economy helps Yemen IDPs support their families

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa


Khaled Shehab, 23, sells perfume from a stall in Sanaa. He and his family recently returned from Dhamar province, where they had fled Yemen's war. [Faisal Darem/Al-Shorfa]

The commercial season leading up to Eid al-Fitr afforded Khaled Shehab and his family an opportunity to return to Sanaa from Dhamar province, where they had fled from war and found refuge for more than a year.

Shehab, 23, has been supporting his family of 10 since the death of his father by selling perfume at stalls next to two shopping malls in the city centre.

"The improved business climate and higher demand for products during the months of Shaban and Ramadan ahead of the Eid were an encouraging factor in taking the decision to return the family to Sanaa from the Wassab al-Ali directorate in Dhamar," Shehab told Al-Shorfa.

Shehab said he is now able to pay his family's rent.

"I chose the locations of my perfume stalls next to public markets to take advantage of the high foot traffic and build a customer base for my products, so I would be able to keep up sales after the Eid season ends," he said.

The same is true for Khalid Baraz, a stall owner who sells women's fashion accessories next to a mall that specialises in women's clothing.

Baraz told Al-Shorfa he worked as a day labourer in the construction sector before work stopped due to the war, and this forced him to return his family to his village in Sanaa province.

He sold some of his wife’s gold to start up the accessories stall, he said, which has given him an unexpectedly good source of income.

"Sales increase as the Eid draws closer, peaking during the 10 days leading up to the Eid," Baraz said, adding that he will keep operating the stall until Eid al-Adha.

Vendor Ali Saleh owns four stalls near malls in Sanaa, two sell underwear, one accessories and another perfumes.

Saleh said he returned with his family to Sanaa from Raima province, where they fled about a year ago because of the war and resulting stoppage of business activity.

"Demand for clothing and related items such as perfumes and accessories rises in the month of Ramadan because it is the year’s primary season for buying clothes for the majority of Yemenis," he said.

Business activity has suffered

"The purchasing power of Yemenis declined significantly due to the war as business activity dried up and the Yemeni riyal lost some of its value," economist Abdul Jalil Hassan told Al-Shorfa.

"These conditions notwithstanding, the months of Shaban and Ramadan represent the year’s primary season for buying clothes, and this raised the levels of demand and spending for products in general, and clothing in particular," he said.

Because of this, Hassan said, a number of people displaced by the war set to work as street vendors, setting up shop along the main roads and near malls.

These vendors typically offer products that are cheaper and of lower quality than those sold in the malls, he said, and chiefly cater to lower-income families.

"The Eid economy is a temporary economy that generates good income for some, but it is temporary and will fade out as the Eid season draws to a close," said Economic and Social Development Research Centre director Marzouk Abdulwadood.

"Yemenis are buying clothes, each according to his means, but that is mostly limited to children’s apparel, because the stalls offer lower quality or used clothes at affordable prices that enable the disadvantaged to bring joy to their children’s faces despite the prevailing circumstances," he said.

The owners of those stalls are mostly people who do not have stable or permanent jobs and wait for the Eid season for a work opportunity that may extend four to five months up until Eid al-Adha, he said.

"They are internally displaced persons who returned with their families to Sanaa in search of the good income they could earn during this period," he said.

This income may disappear, however, as the religious holiday season (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha) comes to an end, he added, which could send them back to the areas they were displaced to "if the war does not come to an end".

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