By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter
Several retailers in Qatar and other countries in the region are facing several problems including dwindling margins, growing competition, falling customer patronage and high rents, Gulf Times has learnt.
As the economy of the region is slowing down due to the oil price plunge, a large number of small retail outlets are facing heavy odds. Some feel the local market has more supply than what is needed.
Some of the local grocers said despite a fall in business, they are forced to pay higher rents.
One of them said some of the landlords had hiked rents by more than 100%.
“Being in the retail business, how can we move out all of a sudden when asked by the owners,” asked a supermarket operator.
Another shopkeeper was also told to either vacate or pay a much higher rent by the landlord, inquiries found. Higher rents would naturally lead to higher prices shop, the shopkeeper said.
Some of them said there has been a drastic fall in the number of customers visiting their shops in recent months. One of the reasons could be that many people who have lost jobs are leaving the country, he said but according to official statistics, there is no fall in Qatar’s population.
“Several shops in this area cater mainly to single workers and there has been a fall in the number of customers at the outlets including mine in recent months. Later I realised this was because a number of young men who used to come to my shop were no longer here as they have lost their jobs,” said Mohamed Iqbal, a grocery operator in Najma.
When it was pointed out that the population of the country was in fact rising, he said most of them seemed to be workers who are housed in labour accommodations in the Industrial Area and elsewhere.
Similar sentiments were echoed by an expatriate running laundries in Al Wakrah and Al Mamoura. Despite a fall in the volume of businesses, he said he is now forced to pay higher rents.
Real estate agents continue to fleece tenants
Complaints are mounting that real estate agents, many of them unauthorised, are continuing to harass tenants in Qatar. The victims rue the absence of effective rules to check the activities of such agents. As a result, many agents ruthlessly exploit the tenants, often asking them to leave if they do not agree to their demands for hikes in rent, it is learnt. Interestingly, most of these agents cite “unusually high demand” for properties when in reality several apartments across Doha are lying vacant for months. One of the victims said he and his family moved to a flat more than a year ago and now they are forced to vacate because of the “unreasonable” demands of the agent. “Since we neither have the time nor the money to move courts, we decided to leave.” He said some agents ask the tenants to leave after a year as they can get two ‘commissions’ in two years from the same flat. In one of the residential complexes in Doha, no tenant has stayed in any of the apartments for more than a year apparently because of the unethical practices of the agent. As a result the flats are now occupied by ‘single workers.’
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