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Stalls at one of George Town’s oldest markets turn to delivery service during MCO

A GrabFood rider picks up his customer’s groceries at the Chowrasta Market in George Town May 11, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOW, May 11 — Usually, in the days leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri, business is brisk at the Chowrasta Market in George Town, but this year, it has dropped by almost half.

One of the traders at the market, Mohd Faizal Ismail, blamed this year’s slow Raya season sales on the movement control order (MCO).

He said prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be a long queue snaking around his stall in the days leading up to Raya, but both this year and last, there were fewer people at the market.

Mohd Faizal, who is a fourth-generation butcher, said prior to 2020, they would be able to sell the equivalent of two whole cows per day during the Raya season.

“Last year, we managed to sell only about one cow per day during the Raya season due to the MCO, and this year again, Raya is during MCO so we are expecting less sales too,” he said.

Due to the drop in customers at the market, Mohd Faizal said they agreed to try out delivery services such as Grab, Foodpanda and Gimmart, when approached.

“We decided to sign up for the services as a side income and we do get orders, once or twice a week from the delivery services,” he said.

Mohd Faizal’s great grandparents started the butcher stall at the Chowrasta Market in the 1920s and today, he and his uncle, Abdul Rashid Abdul Hamid, run the stall together.

He said his grandparents used to tell him that their stall was one of the first butcher stalls on Penang island and customers from all over the island would travel to town to buy beef from them.

“Now there are butchers in every neighbourhood market so people don’t travel to town to buy our beef but during Raya season, they will still come here to buy from us, it has become a tradition,” he said.

However, due to the MCO, he said many of their regular customers could not come to town as they live in another district.

He hopes that customers would try out the delivery service instead as they will still be getting their quality beef and it will be delivered right to their doorstep.

Four market stalls at Chowrasta Market have signed up for the grocery delivery service with Grab through Grabmart.

Vegetable seller, Nuraini Khader Mydin, 23, also signed up for deliveries by Grab, Foodpanda and Gimmart.

She said the number of customers at the market has dropped but the delivery services have helped and are a good option during MCO.

“I receive delivery orders daily, especially around noon, so it is good that I signed up for it too,” she said.

As for fishmonger, AA Shahjahan, 59, he has been getting an increasing number of orders through the Grab and Gimmart delivery services.

“I have been getting 10 to 15 orders for delivery and it is increasing daily,” he said.

He said it is good to try other ways of increasing his business as the MCO means the number of customers going to the market will drop.

The fourth stall to offer delivery at the market is the Ooi Chooi Thoe and Leong Swee Pak curry paste stall, now operated by Michael Chong.

“This stall was started by my grandparents and now I am helping my mother to manage it,” he said.

He said Grab approached many stalls in the market last year as part of the state government’s initiative to push for traders to go online.

“Only four stalls, including our stall, signed up for Grabmart to try it out,” he said.

He said business has been slow in recent weeks due to the higher number of Covid-19 cases and now the MCO will make it worse.

“I do get delivery orders on Grabmart and it is a welcomed side income,” he said.

The Chowrasta Market, believed to be one of the oldest markets in George Town, started out as a collection of market stalls at the junction of Jalan Penang, Lebuh Tamil, Jalan Kuala Kangsar and Jalan Chowrasta back in the 1890s.

A modern market building was constructed on the site in the 1960s and the stalls were shifted into the building.

It was the first market complex with an escalator. The market complex was given a RM13.18 million facelift several years ago and the newly renovated complex was opened in late 2016.

Reference