by Emmanuel Joseph
It is the worst Crop-Over ever for business in the City of Bridgetown. Most store operators in the island’s main shopping centre this afternoon echoed these sentiments, and even though some did not describe sales in those exact terms, their message was the same.
A Barbados TODAY team which toured Swan Street, Broad Street and surrounding areas this afternoon, observed what appeared to be just another regular day of the week, outside of the Crop-Over Festival. “People are just not buying unless [things are] cheap. I had to go overseas and bring in clothes and sell them for $10,” declared owner of Genesis Touch on Swan Street, Sharon Small, as scores of shoppers “lapped” up the cut-price blouses which were displayed on racks on the side walk at the front of the store.
“I had to sell my clothes cheap for $10 to be able to make money. People just not spending money, Crop-Over or not,” Small insisted.
At Heavenly Fashions on Swan Street, one senior sales staff member said she had seen better Crop-Over Festivals.
“This is not like Crop-Over of the past. Things dead! The Cavalcades used to give us a hype for Crop-Over, which would still be on like now so. However, with the Cavalcades reduced to four and having ended early, things dead,” argued the sales woman.
The night shopping last night made a difference with people coming out and at least “eye” shopping, she said.
“We still have to be thankful, because they are people who are worse off than we are,” added the store worker.
She however suggested that people were buying (expensive) costume for Kadooment Day, “but our clothes still in the store”.
“This is the slowest Crop-Over in a long time,” owner of Jasons on Swan Street, Chandri Thani told this newspaper.
Thani said he had brought in a new stock for the festival, but people were not buying. He recalled that in previous years, his store would be very busy around this time. For the 10 to 15 minutes the Barbados TODAY team remained in the store, it was all but empty with a handful of people passing through.
“Because of the current downturn, people are dealing with priorities. They are focusing on their back-to-school and if anything extra is left they might come and spend it here,” asserted the store owner. Thani pointed out though, that business people like him were trying their best to keep going.
“The night shopping was good. Let’s wait and see how the minister of tourism’s proposals for visitor arrivals work. I am not laying off my staff; my staff is like family. I am keeping positive,” he assured. Word from Forever Hip clothing store in the Colanade Mall on Broad Street was no brighter.
“This is the ‘deadest’ Crop-Over sales-wise. Crop- Over has made no difference to our sales,” lamented a senior employee.
“I ain’t see no sales yet [for the day],” another worker interjected. Another mall worker told Barbados TODAY two of his buddies had to close their businesses because “nothing is happening”. He said that during last year’s Crop- Over, some stores with which he was intimately familiar were earning an average $3,000 to $5,000 per day.
“Now this year some are making between $1,700 and $2,500 a day,” he revealed. “I have never seen Crop-Over like this before. Sales are down about 60 per cent — 50 per cent for sure,” pointed out the businessman.
“Normally at this time on a Friday in here (Forever Hip) you could not walk through without bouncing up on people. It dread. Other stores I work for are also dread.”
The businessman also disclosed that at least one of his “buddies” who owned stores had to chose between investing his personal saving set aside for the upkeep of his home into the business, or close down. “He closed down,” declared the entrepreneur. “Tudor Street store sales are also down. One owner I worked for brought in additional staff for the festival season, but was sorry afterwards because nobody was coming into the store.”
In the ladies fashion department upstairs Cave Shepherd on Broad Street, Store Manager Andrew Wilkinson said sales were still challenging, but while the company implemented cost-cutting measures, it had no intention of sending home employees at this time.