Updated: Summer market moves after heat deters customers

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A new marketplace for home-based entrepreneurs to sell their goods has been set up on the Corniche this month, but is so far attracting few shoppers due to the heat and humidity.

The Summer Instagram Market, which is located outside of the Al Mourjan restaurant near Ory the Oryx, is open from 6:30pm to 10:30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until Sept. 28.

UPDATE | Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014:

In response to a lack of customers and the overwhelming heat, the Summer Instagram Market which opened on the Corniche two weeks ago, has now moved to the Doha Exhibition Center.

The Qatar Summer Festival confirmed the move on its Facebook page, saying, “The Summer Instagram Market is still on! This Weekend will be at Doha Exhibition Center.”

“I got a call sometime around Sunday, and they said that it would be moved,” said Ayman Abu Chaman, a Lebanese expat who owns Mounet Bayt Jedee, one of the participating outlets. He added that the reason behind the sudden change wasn’t intimated, but that it probably came about as a result of the heat and a less-than-modest turnout at the Corniche.

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The feature, rolled out by the Qatar Tourism Authority and the Bedaya Center, aims to spotlight budding business owners – mostly Qatari women – who mainly rely on the internet to sell their goods.

“I’m happy about this. We get to meet people face to face, and sell our goods. It’s good exposure,” said Mohammed Yousef Al Obaidly, who was manning his mother’s store.

Al Obaidly said his 54-year-old mother began the venture, which roughly translates to Kingdom of Arabic Perfume, over 15 years ago.

She had started by selling incense and clothes – which she designed herself – via BBM and Whatsapp. Before long, she moved onto Instagram, and expanded her offerings to include spices and coffee.

According to Mohammed Abdullah, a volunteer with the Bedaya Center, the market has around 15 shops, selling a variety of goods from clothes to packaged foodstuff to patterned plates and fabric.

“We began planning this at the beginning of the summer festival, but wanted to wait a while for the weather to get a bit better. Most of the businesses here were contacted by the Bedaya Center, which is an organization dedicated to career development and entrepreneurship, and asked to showcase their goods.”

Others, like Mona Hassoum, who began Mounet Bayt Jedee, a store selling homemade cheese, sugar-free jams, special seed and nut oils, dried herbs, and waters made from flowers imported from Lebanon, approached the center herself.

“We had called them up a while ago, and asked if there were any exhibitions or events, and when this came up, they asked us to be a part of it,” said the mother of six, who began the shop three years ago with her 27-year-old son Ayman Abu Chanab.

Unlike most of the businesses at the market however, the family has a presence outside of the market, with their first store opening at City Center mall around six months ago.

Challenges

Many Qatar-based entrepreneurs have long complained about the difficulties in registering a business here, due to the red tape and prohibitive costs – including a QR200,000 initial fund requirement.

The market helps provide a shortcut for business owners, but comes with its own challenges. For one, Qatar’s summer continues to linger into September, with average temperatures still in the high 30s during the evenings.

This makes it hard for store owners to stay open for long, and also has discouraged customers.

When Doha News visited the market yesterday, most businesses had closed for the night, and the few that remained bemoaned the heat.

“It’s a good idea, but it should have been done in the winter, or some place air conditioned. People don’t stay out in this heat,” Hassoum said.

For Amira Turkey, a 24-year-old half Qatari, half Saudi woman, a lack of Qatari customers has hurt business.

Qatar summer festival

Her business, Abayat Al Amira, which sells traditional abayas, relies heavily on the local population.

“We have around 25 to 30 customers a month via our Instagram account, but very few people have come here. No Qataris, for one. People like to go to places that are air-conditioned,” she said.

Despite the heat, numerous residents were seen watching the 10-minute Corniche water show that takes place at 30-minute intervals in the evenings through Sept. 28. Few, however, stayed to check out the market.

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