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Shoppers show Restraint

By By Camille Bethel

It was a mixed Christmas shopping season for Trinidad and Tobago businesses.
Now that the Christmas season is over and business people spent last week taking stock of their sales and assessing their balance sheets.
These assessments showed that some businesses had a much better Christmas in 2013 than others.
President of the San Fernando Business Association Daphne Bartlett told the
Business Express that South-based businesses saw a 20 per cent to 30 per cent decline over 2012 sales.
“And that has been occurring over the last four, five years. Each year successively we have had a decline and there were several reasons for that – the global financial slowdown, the lack of parking in the city and that is still unresolved, as well as this year the entire High Street was converted into a flea market. So you find that the influx of vendors from all over the country came in here and displayed their goods and they were selling the same thing that was being sold inside stores and it gave an unfair competition and that also contributed to the decline,” she said.
Bartlett said the association fought for security in the city and won out in the end, so shopping in the city was safe but street vending without police control made it chaotic.
Richie Sookhai, president of the Chaguanas Business Association said the general consensus among Central business owners was that in the beginning it was a bit slow but coming down to the end of Christmas, business picked up.
“I was speaking to some of the bank managers and they were saying that they have not had any complaints from their customers.
“Seeing the aftermath from Christmas there have been no complaints. From what I have seen the main road businessmen coming down closer to Christmas, there was this upsurge in sales which was good for them. At the beginning it was very slow but in the end there was this exponential increase in sales and that is the general consensus coming from Chaguanas.”
Taran Singh of the Tunapuna Business Association said sales picked up during the week of Christmas but it was not exactly what they wanted it to be.
“I would say the sales were good but it was not bumper sales. There was still some restraint being shown by shoppers although coming closer to Christmas Day it got much better than we expected.
“It did improve nominally, from 2012 sales, but people were still holding some restraint on their spending. That was the kind of sales that we saw,” Singh said.
However, San Juan Business Association president Abrahim Ali described sales in his area as “very poor”.
“I think just the last two days we had sales picking up a bit but the week before sales were very bad throughout San Juan and I am looking at all the industries – the hardwares which would usually sell their paint and their household stuff. Also the supermarkets, the liquor stores, I visited quite a number of them over the week before Christmas and they were doing very badly.
“I don’t think the general consumer had that spending power this year. What would have redounded to that may be lack of jobs or the types of jobs that are available – they are not sustainable and they are not paying jobs, like the CEPEP workers and all those people they don’t really make groceries, they don’t buy furniture, they live day to day. They don’t have the spending power like the 1980s and 1990s because those make-work programmes are not the types of jobs that will have the economy moving and I think it is something that needs to be looked at,” he said.
Hugh Howard, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago said although he had not received feedback from his membership, from observation some sectors fared better than others.
“In terms of general observation it would appear that in certain sectors they had a brisk and rewarding season in terms of sales and patronage whereas in others they weren’t as fortunate. So it appears as though it was a bit of a mixed situation whereby in terms of food and drink it was a pretty good Christmas for those businessmen engaged in those areas but when it came to things like appliances and home furnishings, those were not as lucrative.
“So it appears as though what people are saying with limited resources is ‘let’s go for the things that are necessary to our sustenance and other things which we can really delay then we will leave those out of our Christmas shopping and see what goes on in the new year if the economy picks up’.
“To me, this speaks well because it seems people are beginning now to really sit back and think and to be more analytical with respect to how they use their limited disposable income,” he said.
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