The atmosphere at the Oistins Festival has significantly improved, but for owners and operators of small businesses, the annual event has not generated the type of economic activity which was expected.
Festival chair Toni Thorne challenged business people to come forward with more local offerings and they did not disappoint. Entrepreneurs again flocked to the southern fishing town, eager to display the best of their products and services.
From agricultural produce, to cosmetics and home décor products, it was clear that Barbadian entrepreneurs were presenting more innovative and unique concepts. Unfortunately, it appears Barbadians are still clutching their wallets and purses, opting for a more frugal approach.
Rachel Clement, Founder, Manager and Designer of Rachel Clement’s Sea Glass Accessories, described the first three days at the festival as “slow and steady”, but still an improvement on last year’s.
“Last year was horrible. This year, their whole presentation and the variety of activities and the use of various stages tend to give a whole different feeling to Oistins in comparison to what I’m used to…This year has been a great improvement and more people have been anticipating Oistins because of all of the pop ups. It’s a little better for 2019.”
Clement however added: “It is a little harder to get people to spend money right now. But I have people who love my products and they will purchase regardless. There was a woman who saw my rings and requested that I make one from scratch yesterday. It’s been a growing experience,” she concluded.
For Dion George, Co-owner of Frootsad246, which offers a variety of fruit and vegetable juices, the assessment was quite similar.
“It’s very lively and a lot of people have been passing through today. Yesterday [Saturday] was a bit slow at first, but it got livelier in the evening and more people were passing through.
“People are spending money, but they haven’t been buying as they would have at other events, but those who have bought the juices really enjoyed them,” he said.
At Tandem’s Box Pop local creativity was showcased in several contemporary home wares, lighting, home decor, apparel & accessories.
Israel Mapp, creative producer for Tandem movement told Barbados TODAY that the business, which started locally has expanded to become a “pan regional” enterprise.
“Our mandate is to expand our exposure through the island… to let people know that we are here and that we make good quality products which are functional and beautiful,” said Mapp.
“People are very surprised because our setup is a bit different, because we take well-designed objects and make an experience of them and let people know there are different ways of experiencing things that are made in Barbados. So the feedback has been very interesting.
“Obviously the major issue is the price point. Because of where we are and how we source material and the cost of talent and skill, our products are a little more expensive. But it’s not that we are trying to fleece you, this is simply the cost. So people say, ‘you know what, I can work towards this, I can save towards this item because it has high value and I’m supporting a larger eco system of people’…so they may not buy now, but they have our cards, they think about us and they may come back in December and buy something from us.”
For Lucette Trotman, Manager of Bajanique, which specializes in all natural handmade soaps, creams, facial masks, foot scrubs and body scrubs, this year has been a disappointment.
“The experience has not been better. I’ve made one sale for two days so far. We don’t see many people at all and the festival is nothing like before. Even last year it wasn’t that fantastic, but it was a lot better than this year and we saw a lot more people and at this point [Sunday], it is just like a normal day in Oistins,” said Trotman.
She also complained that Barbadians had not yet developed an appreciation for the work of local artisans and their authentic products.
“I find that a lot of Barbadians haven’t caught onto the natural and local stuff, but the tourists buy them. They buy the soaps, the creams and the insect repellents especially, and they take home things as gifts. But I still find too many plastic toys are being bandied around for sale for children and not a lot of support locally for the local, handmade products,” she said.