BUSINESSES in Port Elizabeth's busy Strand Street are buckling under pressure, some even contemplating closure, as consumers battle to make ends meet thanks to rising unemployment.
Despite the steady foot traffic in the city's CBD, the businesses which cater to largely low-income earners say sales have been slow.
The Eastern Cape shed a massive 65 000 jobs in the last quarter of last year, putting much pressure on families already under the whip.
Strand Street businesses, which make up a sizeable chunk of business activity in the CBD, include grocery, furniture and clothing stores, as well as accessory shops, hair salons and a bottle store.
Shafik Hossain, of NK Cellular, said: "It is a busy road because of the number of people that come by taxis, but they are just not shopping. Business is not like it used to be eight years ago when I first opened the shop."
Teddy Jikamo, of Magic Price clothing shop, said he was hopeful that the soon- to-open student accommodation would boost his business.
"It is definitely not like it used to be because people are shopping elsewhere. I have often thought about closing the shop.
"We cater for poor people who are looking for quality clothing at low prices, but our expenditure is exceeding our profit."
Quality Furniture owner Asif Shaikh said he sometimes took home only R400 a day.
"We cater for everyone. People end up paying triple in shopping malls but the item is of the same quality as ours.
"We are selling according to our people's budget," Shaikh said.
Smart Fashion manager Abdi Mohamed shared the same sentiments.
"It has been very quiet in the last two or so years. We sell quality imported Chinese items to the poorest of the poor but they too have not been shopping lately.
"Maybe they all spent their money on school fees and uniforms," he said.
The owner of Universal Dealers, who only identified himself as Raga, said he did not believe business was booming anywhere in the CDB.
"I think things are like this because it is February. The way consumers spend is in line with the current economic trend. A certain number of consumers are going to shopping malls but they end up paying more for the same quality of items we are also offering.
"Things have not been the same for the last couple of years, but we are surviving. We have our regular clientele but the business is far from booming. Times are really hard," he said.