With handicraft shops in Paro town doing roaring business, general shops have been relegated to the back.
In 2006, there were only three handicraft shops in Paro. Between 2011-12, the number shot up to 40. In 2013, 10 more cropped up taking the total to 50. As of now, 74 handicraft shops are operating in town.
Locally produced products sold in the handicraft shops include textile, paintings, woodcrafts, bamboo products and herbal medicine while imported products are antique.
Around 60% of the products are imported and 40% are locally produced. The imported ones are from Nepal and Delhi.
Handicraft shops in Paro have even formed a committee with a chairperson to address issues related to handicrafts.
Chairperson of the committee, Tenzin Yeshi, said that a decade back, handicraft business in Paro was lucrative. The profit margin was very high. Although the same remains true now, handicraft shops are competing with each other for business.
Back in 2006, the prices of the products were high and in a day, sales worth Nu 300,000 could be made.
Since 2009, handicraft shops in town saw a boom.
Tenzin Yeshi said the reason for the growing popularity of handicrafts in town could be the strategic location of Paro as one of the country’s entry and exit points.
“Tourists do luxury shopping of handicrafts,” he said.
However, he said that with more number of handicraft shops, profit margin has also decreased.
Two years back, Choden, 37, a mother of three was running a garment shop. Now, she has converted it into a handicraft shop and business is looking up.
During the tourist season, she manages to earn Nu 10,000 per day whereas before her garment shop could earn hardly Nu 5,000 a day.
Renting a building for a handicraft shop costs Nu 25,000-Nu 40,000 per month.
Similarly, Tashi Lhamo, 34, has been running the Tara Handicraft for almost eight years now.
She earns Nu 30,000 per day during the peak season.
However, another challenge has beset the handicraft shops apart from rising competition from each other.
The local community of Tshento village has started selling handicraft products at cheaper rates as compared to the market prices.
“Because of this, most tourists buy from them,” said Tashi Lhamo, a handicraft shop owner.
The chairperson of the handicraft shops committee said that competing with the community is a problem.
“They do not have to pay tax so they buy from wholesale dealers and even from the border at much cheaper rates.”
He feels the government should impose tax on them so that both the shops and the community are at a level playing field.
There is also a community of more than 30 people selling handicraft products at the Taktshang basement.
Most of the products are imported from Nepal because the prices are reasonable.
Dechen Dolkar from Paro