Bridgetown merchants are reporting brisk business for back-to-school shopping – and promising lower prices now that a hated ten per cent sales tax has been abolished.
Three major sources of school apparel, stationery and supplies told Barbados TODAY sales were starting to pick up after a sluggish July.
With Crop Over out of the way, parents and students flocked to stores today, four weeks before the first day of the new school year on September 10.
Woolworth’s department store on Prince Henry Street, The City was a familiar scene of hardly any standing room for the annual ritual of shopping for stationery and supplies, now that the summer festival has passed.
“July was kind of quiet, as to be expected. It was a little quieter than last year,” said managing director Martin Bryan.
“Back-to-school picks up after Crop Over, so now that Kadooment is finished we are going to see an upturn for sure. Yesterday was the first day after Kadooment and we saw brisk trade in the back-to-school department,” he said.
With the abolition of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), a sales tax imposed by the Freundel Stuart administration in September 2016 at one per cent of the customs duty on locally produced and important goods before it was raised to ten per cent in July 2017, Bryan promised even further price reductions as the store moves goods purchased while the tax was in force.
“Some of our items came in before the NSRL got removed so the tax will be on, but then there are some that came after. You will have some that have on the ten percent drop and some that remain on. In those cases, we have reduced our margins to accommodate that so our prices this year are good compared to last year. As we get new stock for back-to-school it will drop even further,” Bryan said.
Fabric and textile seller Abeds dropped its prices on average between $7 and $10 in the wake of the NRSL’s abolition, store manager Suzette Layne told Barbados TODAY.
“We have dropped our prices big time based on the NSRL tax,” Layne said. “We have come in line with that so customers can enjoy an extra perk of additional saving and there is a discount of our school items as well. Customers will see the benefits to them financially. Things have really started to pick up; normally that happens after Crop Over has finished,” she added.
The Swan Street store was optimistic that sales would increase as the school term approaches, she said.
“Back-to-school is improving, [and] we are hopeful that things will get better as the month goes on.
“Normally in July everything is fabric because you have to get the material to the seamstress in time. Right now people are mostly buying ready-made uniforms,” Layne said.
“Things have picked up; we have to wait and see.”
On Broad Street, Cave Shepherd experienced an initial trickle and depressed sales last month followed by a gradual rise in August, according to Communications Specialist Mark Anthony.
“Initially things started out a little slow. We didn’t see the usual traffic at the beginning of July,” Anthony said. “It is now the beginning of August, Crop Over and Grand Kadooment [are] behind us, so we are seeing a little bit more traffic in the store for back-to-school,” Anthony said.
“The fact that we have started slow would suggest of course that we are a little behind,” he added.