With less than a week to go before Christmas, hopes for an uptick in sales are quickly fading for businesses in Bridgetown, who say they are being badly hurt by the increased National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
This morning several business owners and managers stated that even though public workers received their salaries today, there had been little change in the circumspection shown by shoppers since the season began.
Several economists, as well as business associations, including the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have long warned that the contentious NSRL, which was raised from two per cent to ten per cent beginning July 1, would result in depressed sales.
General Manager of Woolworth Martin Bryan told Barbados TODAY that shoppers were buying no more than the bare essentials, as spending power had been significantly cut.
“It has not been great, to be honest with you. We haven’t had the kind of numbers which we have grown accustomed to in previous years,” Bryan said.
“Business is certainly down, traffic is down and the spend is down, which is attributed to the NSRL as well as the uncertainty with election in the air. I think it is just the reality of the time because everything has gone up ten per cent and it comes down to being able to meet your needs of food, shelter, clothing and leaving out the things one can do without.”
The business executive further argued that should the current trend continue it would not augur well for business prospects during the lean month of January.
“If this Christmas does not turn out too well then I am not too sure that it augurs well for January. With all of the uncertainty within the economy, as well as the direct hit on your pocket with the ten per cent [NSRL], even though you try to look at it positively the reality is something different,” Bryan said.
His position was strongly supported by street vendor Roger Goodridge, who said that this year “has been the slowest” of the 51 years that he has been selling toys at Christmas time.
“This year has not been good at all. We have been out since November and things have been really slow, and it is not looking at all like the years gone by. You see people passing with their children but they are not spending.
“People have not been working and they have taxes up . . . so while they would still buy toys for their children they have to first pay their bills. As a poor man who has been doing this business as a child with my mother I cannot really pass on NSRL to my customers because if I raise my price it would run my customers,” Goodridge said.
Abeds’ on Swan Street also reported a similar situation, with Store Manager Hassan Towini telling Barbados TODAY that he could only hope and pray that sales ramp up in the next few days.
“The Christmas season has been very quiet. We haven’t seen any big crowds in the beginning, only from Saturday we started to see a few more people. Today we saw a few more people starting to spend but I really don’t know if the end will be good to us,” Towini said.