Barbadians are watching every penny even as they engage in back-to-school shopping, according to some of the island’s leading retail stores.
Still, although two of the retailers said business was not as brisk as in previous years, there has been increased activity in the days leading up to the reopening of school next week.
At Woolworth in Bridgetown, there was hardly any back-to-school activity before Crop Over, but it has been busy since, according to Managing Director Martin Bryan.
Bryan said sales have been down when compared to last year, but “we have been relatively busy, particularly the last two weeks in terms of back-to-school – clothing, socks, stationery, etc”.
“This is the last weekend now, we have the staff, we have the stock and we are ready,” Bryan said.
One observation, he said, was that parents were purchasing fewer uniforms this year, continuing a trend that began some five or so years ago.
And, despite the scrapping of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), there has not been a reversal in this trend.
“In the last couple of years we found that in the past persons will outfit their kids with five of this and five of that. In the last five or six years it has been two of this and two of that and come back when they can afford it in October, November . . . to pick up one more. We have not seen an increase in the amount of items sold because of the [removal] of NSRL,” the Woolworth executive said.
The story was the same at Cave Shepherd on Broad Street, where there were few people engaged in last-minute shopping when Barbados TODAY visited this morning.
“The majority buy about three and once they have uniforms that can go another year they just buy one so that they look fresh the first week, or if they have any outings with the school. But we have definitely seen a reduction in a number of uniforms,” Alisa Boyce, the manager on the first floor, told Barbados TODAY.
Boyce said things started a little slowly, with few people showing up with Government vouchers to purchase school uniforms.
However, she said, business has improved in the past few weeks.
“I guess with the change of Government and stuff we are not seeing as much Government vouchers coming out. It has picked up later in August, although we are still not seeing the traffic in the past years,” she said.
“[However], all in all, it has been a relatively good season,” Boyce said.
It was a different situation at Abeds where scores of shoppers flocked the Lower Swan Street branch in search of last-minute deals.
Store Manager Suzette Layne told Barbados TODAY this was the normal scene this year, with a steep rise in the number of people buying school uniforms with Government vouchers.
“Back-to-school has been fairly busy, especially in the last two to three weeks in that a lot of parents have been coming in as the sixth formers are now coming to get their material as they now know if they have been accepted into a six form [school],” Layne said.
“This year I have seen an increase in the amount of shirts [being sold] and persons are buying again,” she said, adding that she believed the removal of the NSRL and other taxes had sparked renewed confidence in shoppers.
“I believe it is an ease on persons pockets so they feel a bit more relaxed and freer to increase the amount that they would have been spending. We have seen an influx in [the number of persons coming with Salvation Army and Government vouchers] as well,” Layne said.