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Muslims in Malaysia go on first Hari Raya shopping spree since lifting of curbs

KUALA LUMPUR - Ms Maisarah Kalsum Adnan is looking forward to Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations this year as it will be the first time that she and her three siblings will be able to gather at their parents' home in northern Kedah state in three years.

"This Raya is going to be very special for our family because we are now able to celebrate it with no restrictions," the civil engineer told The Straits Times.

All of the siblings have chipped in and bought new curtains, a television and sofa set for their mother to mark the occasion, spending around RM7,000 (S$$2,220).

"My mother is the most excited one as she gets to have a Raya makeover for her house and see all of us together for the very first time in three years. I have never seen her so excited for Raya till now," added the 31-year-old.

Mr Muhammad Haris Luqman, 38, is also going big for Aidilfitri this year.

Although he is planning to invite only close friends to his house, he has spent more than RM35,000 on refurbishing the house and buying new clothes, a 75-inch television set and home theatre.

The communications executive has even bought a new Perodua Ativa car and is planning to cater food for the occasion.

"My wife and I decided to go all out this year, not just because we are allowed to accept visitors and travel if we want to, there are also a lot of promotions going on. It would be a waste not to take advantage of that.

"It's also a form of expression - to celebrate our small 'freedom' and 'victory', being able to return to some 'normalcy'. It's something we took for granted before Covid-19. We were never the type to spend this much for Raya before."

This will be the first Aidilfitri since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in Malaysia. Wearing a face mask was made mandatory from Aug 1, 2020.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin indicated on Friday that an announcement on the lifting of the mask mandate could be possible ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

"Wait until next week," he was quoted as saying by The Star daily, when asked about it.

He also said the government was prepared to remove more Covid-19 restrictions as the pandemic situation in the country has improved.

Unlike the past two years, everyone, including the unvaccinated, can now cross state lines freely and "balik kampung", and open houses may be allowed.

Last year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations were muted because of strict movement curbs, with visiting capped at 15 people to a house and limited to within the same district.

The mood has definitely lifted this year, judging by the crowds at many shopping malls and Hari Raya bazaars across the country as people make up for lost time.

Swedish home furnishing retailer Ikea reported an increased interest among consumers to refresh their homes.

"We have noted an overall increase of 17 per cent of Web visitors from March to April 2022," Mr Gerard Jansen, Ikea's country retail director for Malaysia, told ST.

"We foresee that there will be an increase in footfall during the last week of Ramadan, anticipating the rush of last-minute shoppers."

Popular products in the past month included sofas and armchairs, followed by dining and dinnerware, reflecting the trend that consumers were getting their homes Raya-ready, he added.

Car sales have also risen, perhaps in preparation for road trips back home.

Figures from the Malaysian Automotive Association showed year-to-date new vehicle sales for March was 12.8 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2021.Vehicle sales for March was 62.5 per cent higher than in February.

 

Sunway Malls and Theme Parks, which operates seven retail malls across Malaysia, said it had returned to 100 per cent normality in terms of sales and traffic since the fourth quarter of last year, compared with the same period in 2019.

"This trend lasted even through the first quarter of this year, hence 2022 has performed better than expected. We forecast April 2022 to register 100 per cent too," Mr H.C. Chan, chief executive of Sunway Malls and Theme Parks, told ST.

The trend was predominantly due to festive buying throughout the Christmas and Chinese New Year festivities, he said.

"The sentiments should echo throughout Raya too, given the past two years had been subdued due to movement restriction."

He also expects the malls to be busy during the Hari Raya holiday season.

"Our malls are usually extremely busy during public holidays," he said.

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