London’s world famous Sunday market, better known as Liverpool Street Market, in East London is facing hard times as some of its businesses are folding up while many others are struggling to stay afloat due to the low patronage of Nigerians, a Daily Trust findings have shown.
The 400-year-old market, which sells mainly clothes for women, men and children; designer goods, as well as bric-a-brac and household goods, is patronised mainly by Nigerians and other customers from around the world.
A recent survey by Daily Trust showed that the change of government in Nigeria, coupled with cash and financial policies that placed restrictions on the amount of money one can travel with or withdraw abroad have led to a drastic reduction of Nigerian customers at the market.
In one of the big textile shops in the market, an employee who craved anonymity told Daily Trust that their sales had slumped by more than 40 percent since the inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, adding that the few Nigerian customers who come in now buy only a fraction of items they used to buy in the past.
In another top textile shop with a reputation of serving tea to big time customers while they shop, a manager who wouldn’t like his name published said their business has been going through “tough times” in the last few months due to a “significant” drop in the number of Nigerian customers.
“When the going was good, a lot of Nigerian customers bought assorted items in bulk and opted for door- to- door courier or cargo delivery in Nigeria,” but lamented that they hardly have such customers now.
Hajiya Rabi, a store operative, while confirming the decline in sales owing to a drastic drop in the number of Nigerian customers, said the future of businesses, especially textiles shops in the market looked very bleak without robust patronage by Nigerians and other customers.
Speaking in the same vein, a shop owner, Chief (Mrs.) Franca Aina, said sales had “really, really gone down,” and attributed the trend partly to restrictions on credit card spending and the limited amount of cash Nigerians are allowed to carry or withdraw abroad.
Aina, who is Nigerian, said the situation was so bad that some shops and businesses were closing down, stressing that: “I think it’s because of the new government’s war on corruption.”
“In the past, Nigerians used to come here and spend (money) anyhow. But now only a few come and they spend very little. In many shops, 90 percent of sales are by Nigerian customers. So you can see why the businesses are folding up,” she narrated.
The shop owner appealed to the Nigerian government to look into the cash and financial restrictions placed on its citizens travelling abroad, stressing that people should be allowed to carry as much money as they wish as long as they could prove ownership of the money.
“We go to Switzerland and other countries to buy goods and carry as much money as we need and the UK does not stop us as long as we can prove it is our money,” she said, pointing out that placing a blanket restriction victimises innocent people who earn their money legitimately.
Daily Trust reports that in most of the shops visited, operatives were seen idling away as very few customers were in the shops, unlike in the past when such shops were a beehive of activities as the operatives struggled to cope with customers’ demand.
A couple seen seated in one of the shops told Daily Trust that they were from Nigeria and they came to the market to buy some fabrics and other items for personal use and gifts (tsaraba) for family and friends at home.
It is recalled that businesses at the market recorded very poor sales for a few days in January 2012 during the fuel subsidy removal protests in Nigeria when flights into the UK were suspended, and it took weeks before the situation became normal.