Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Footprints of Fabric Wholesale: Azam Cloth Market

images (42)The shopkeepers of Azam Cloth market pride themselves on, and they like to stress this vehemently, being a part of ‘the biggest cloth market in Asia.” While snaking your way through the many winding alleys lined with shops of various sizes you do tend to lose track of both time and space. The market is a collage of many small interlinked bazaars where the daylight doesn’t always seep in and the damp musty odor of history prevails.

Situated in the walled city of Lahore, the Azam cloth market is the hub that has been handling wholesale distribution of cloth and ready-to-wear for the last six decades. From khaddar to silk, ready- to-wear to clothing fabrics, casual wear to bridal wear, the market has something for every apparel retailer.

According to Mohd Amjad Sheikh, who has been in the wholesale apparel business since 1974, the Azam cloth market caters to a wide customer based both in Pakistan and abroad. “Retailers from all over Pakistan, Dubai, and UK visit us for their stock purchases. However, the recent security issues have had their impact on the business. Our customer base from India and Afghanistan has dwindled to almost zero. We hope once the situation improves retailers from all neighboring countries will find it comfortable to visit us.”

The merchants of the market are well versed in the history of the place, and every shopkeeper can recount how when the market was created and named. There was a small market near Wazir Khan Mosque; in 1953 when a road had to be widened the market was shifted to its current location by General Azam who gave his own name to the market. Over the decades, the small market extended and now has numerous interlinked blocks or bazaars all dealing in wholesaling of various types of clothing fabrics and lines.

How many interlinked bazaars are there in the market? There is no consensus as such but gathering from the comments of various shop owners the number must be somewhere between 15 and 20

‘It’s an Institution.’

All the bazaars of Azam market are linked and managed by a board of directors. “You won’t find a more well managed institution in Lahore. We have our own constitution with a specific set of rules. Every bazaar has its own president who in turn is answerable to the president of the board. Elections of the board are held every three years to elect resident of the board. Security and administrative decisions made by the board are binding upon the market community,” the business community of the market proudly spells out details of the ‘institution.’ Fire extinguishers, security guards and clean lanes show an active involvement of the board that runs on self-help basis. Every shop owner pays monthly charges of about 200-300 rupees to form a combined pool that helps meet the maintenance expenses.

Nawab Bazaar: The oldest block of Azam Cloth Market

While it is difficult to explore every bazaar in a single visit, every first time visitor should stroll in the Nawab bazaar to get a feel of the place. Nawab bazaar is the first and the oldest block of Azam cloth market. Its open cool spaces invite the customers to linger and shop at their own pace. The shop owners are friendly and there is an overall ambiance of good cheer.

‘What’s in the name?’

Two different versions prevail in the market about the history of block’s name. One interesting story traces origins of the name to the first generation of business men who started their businesses in this market.

According to this version, this first generation of wholesalers liked to arrive late in the markets and opened their shops around noon. So people started calling them nawabs (nawab connotes a laid-back almost royal attitude) and the market came to be known as Nawab bazaar.

Javed sahib, the president of Nawab bazaar, however, strongly disagrees: “My, father, Haji Nawab Deen, was the first generation of wholesalers who established businesses in this block, and the bazaar is name after my father,” he states.

Whatever the real history of the name, the different versions add to the aura of antiquity surrounding the market.

It’s a Man’s World

The wholesale business is dominated by men. Not only there are no female shop owners but you encounter female customers. Occasionally you can run into a lone female retailer traversing the narrow alleys of the market. Razia is one such brave woman I met while combing through the glittering, colorful shops of women’s apparel.

“I have nine children and my husband is a ‘home-tailor’ who works at his clients’ places. To make ends meet, I have started this business. I purchase ready-to-wear female kurtis from this market and my husband takes them to his clients’ houses and sells them. We get to save 100 to 200 rupees on every kurta. It isn’t much but it helps,” Razia explains her ‘business model.’

First Time visitors

Whether you are a retailer, a casual visitor, or a customer who wants to get good bargains, try to heading for the market between 9:30 am to 10:30 am. This is the time when the traffic is not too heavy and it is still quiet in the throbbing, congested lanes of the market. Visiting the market early will save you half of the hassle of long traffic jams. The other half, while going back, you will have to bear. Another advantage of visiting the market early is that once you are there you can shop at leisure and will even have time to haggle with the shopkeepers. As the day advances the business activity picks up pace, the market gets too crowded.

Parking your vehicle is now easy as there is a huge parking plaza near the market. However, the plaza doesn’t have a lift and once you park the car you will have to walk all the way down and then walk all the way up to get the car. It is bit of an exertion and would help if you are in the mood for some exercise.

How to Determine the Quality of the Material

download (57)When you go shopping for leather items, you easily tend to get confused. It’s only natural. The market is brimming with so many products. And, if you don’t have enough knowledge about the material, you can never decide which is real and which is not. The shopkeeper might even offer you cheap quality items produced with low craftsmanship that will not last for long.

Learn how to tell the overpriced from the reasonable. Know which product has a high standard finish, and which does not. And remember, hand-made products are always better than machine-made items. If the manufacturer has cut corners, there is no chance that the product you are buying is genuine and durable.

  • Here is how to tell real and fake leather apart:

The first thing you should notice is a quality tag that speaks of a full grain material. Those who manufacture products from fake materials, never claim them as authentic in written. If you are in two minds, it is safer not to buy it. Because the material is a natural substance, no synthetic procedure can ever match up to its authenticity in terms of look and feel. It is a timeless substance and no synthetic material can sustain wear and tear as much as it can. Ditch the genuine tag for this full grain stamp.

If an item says it is genuine, chances are that it is only an extract from the backside of skins. The patterns that you see are all artificial. They are intentionally applied to mimic the look of the original material. And, about softness and durability, well, you can forget that. So, while buying leather goods, you must look for full grain products. Such items have the typical characteristic of an unpolished surface. There is no coat applied on them to hide the natural markings, which are actually the scars of the animals from which the material comes.

  • How to decide which quality is the finest of all:

Ascertain the quality quotient from the method of selecting the animal skin, and even from the tanning procedure. The first aspect will tell you about the cleanliness of the material and the amount of scars present in it. The cleaner the material, the better. Again, tanning treats the hide and prepares it for the process of production.

This process makes the products sturdy and enhances their longevity. Tanned leather does not decay very easily because it undergoes a chemical treatment, which helps in preventing decomposition. Tanning makes the material soft and supple. Because this feature is very distinct from that of synthetic materials, you can pick it with effortlessly.

  • How to find a product with a good finish:

Durable products should come with durable linings. Avoid buying bags that have a light, flimsy inside. Take this attempt as a long-term investment. You do not want your investment to go futile, do you? Moreover, keenly look for the edges of the exterior. If the product is really high on the quality quotient, it will have hand-treated, polished edges instead of ragged, rough surfaces. For instance, if you are buying a bag, it is important to notice the smoothness of the handles for great comfort.

  • How to keep up the quality product you have just bought:

After you have purchased a fine product, you must worry about its upkeep, too. You can opt for a purpose-made conditioner to keep the leather from becoming rough. Never place your product in a dark, wet place; you will only encourage the growth of mould. Allow enough ventilation and let the material breathe freely. Above all, never expose your product to direct sunlight for too long. It will become dry and hard. Invest a little in its upkeep and you will have a happy product always.

 

Seven Tips For Smarter Shopping

download (59)There is nothing like the joy that comes from getting a good deal. In order to do that, you have to be a smart, savvy shopper. Shopping should not be last minute or in a hurry. These tips can help you beat the crowds and get the best deal doing it.

Know Your Spending Budget

Before you head out on a shopping spree, know how much you can spend. If necessary, write this amount down on a piece of paper or notepad. It will help keep you from overspending.

Beware the Advertisements

When you go into a store, look for a sale. The advertised prices at one store might not be the best price in town. By shopping around you will know what is the best price is. Sometimes the advertised items are not the cheapest, so it is in your best interest to look around before you commit.

Look for Unadvertised Specials

Sometimes the best price is not advertised. Stores frequently drop prices on items. Those unadvertised specials are a great way to save a little money and get something you may have been eyeing but did not want to pay full price.

Don’t Go On Payday or After Work

If you want to avoid a crowd, avoid the store right after work. Everyone is stopping to get last minute things. The same thing applies to payday and just before a major holiday. If you want to shop in peace and avoid the crowds, go during the day.

Check Your Emotions at the Door

Smart shopping is always done when you are emotionally sound. You should never hit a sale when you are in an “I deserve it” mood. By going into a store desperate for an item or in a mindset that you deserve the treat, you end up spending more than necessary. In order to shop smarter, always check your emotions before heading out.

Small Stores Are Great, but Large Stores Are Cheaper

Yes, it is wonderful to support local businesses. In some cases, they are unique enough to have items that you cannot find anywhere else. However, if you are looking for a common item and you want to get the best price, you must go to the big box stores. They have the best prices because they can afford to buy in bulk and can afford to lower profit margin on some items. They tend to make up the difference elsewhere.

Go It Alone

Going with family to the store might save time if you are especially busy. However, you are going to spend more, typically on things, you might not need when you take the kids. Other individuals tend to fill the cart with things that you would not necessarily purchase when you are alone. In this case, having the kids in tow might not be the best way to save a few bucks.

Shopping is something everyone has to do. Make sure you have a list of what you need handy when you walk out the door. Know your budget and take the time to look around to get the best prices.

 

How To Find The Best Shoe Inserts For Your Work Boots

download (56)Using Shoe Inserts For Work Boots

Many industrial work settings require wearing of special work boots as part of their safety requirements. Such footwear are designed to provide protection to the wearer from falling objects, sharp items that can pierce through the shoe and sole, and insulation from electrical leakages and static discharge. Therefore they are found to be very rigid, solid and sturdy structures to provide as much protection as required.

Although these features impart the best protection as possible, they are often not too comfortable to wear all day long. Due to this reason they tend to cause aches, pain and soreness in the foot region. With prolonged use they give rise to other complications such as corns and calluses, plantar fasciitis, inadequate arch support, and pain and inflammation of the foot. As the pain aggravates many users shy away from using such footwear or experience very harmful and detrimental disorders.

In order to minimize pain and prevent damage caused to your feet, it is recommended that you use appropriate types of insoles for your footwear which help you get the proper support for your feet. It should be noted that different types of insoles are designed to give different types of support. For instance high arch insoles focus more on supporting the foot arches and distribute weight in the correct way starting from the foot up the spinal column.

Selecting Insoles For Work Boots

Your selection should be based on your line of work and any existing foot related problems you already suffer from. Work boots are generally heavy by design due to the added layers of protection required. Hence, look for insoles which are lightweight and don’t more weight for your to carry along. It is also important to select the right size and shape of insole to fit your work boots.

Many insoles are now made with advanced technology to give additional features such as antimicrobial activity, shock absorption and moisture control. They are often made of soft materials such as glycerin, foam and rubber to get different levels of support. For example, high arch insoles would comprise of more stiff material to give adequate support. It is advisable to check the material composition of these insoles if you are prone to allergic reactions.

Some of the best shoe insoles for work boots available in the market include:

  • Superfeet Premium Insoles
  • Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Work Insoles
  • Footminders Arch Support Insoles for Sport Shoes and Work Boots
  • Spenco Polysorb Heavy Duty Men’s Insoles