Ahead of the most highly anticipated weekend for partygoers and revellers, the capital’s three iconic stores have reported slight declines in sales when compared with last year’s Crop Over season.
But Cave Shepherd, Woolworth and Abed’s report promising signs for back-to-school shopping, which many parents seem to have prioritised in a tight economy.
With dozens of parties, party-cruises and fetes running almost constantly in late July and early August for Crop Over, clothing and liquor retailers are usually in high demand.
Cave Shepherd has declared it’s prime to capitalise on the opportunities by opening on Emancipation Day and throughout the weekend, according to Store Coordinator Mark Clarke.
While sales are behind in comparison with last year, visitors have been flocking to the store’s Duty-Free departments, he said.
Clarke told Barbados TODAY: “The departments, which the visitors mainly patronize, are actually trending upwards.
“We are expecting a bumper weekend given that tomorrow is a bank holiday, we know on Friday and Saturday there will be a lot of visitors in-store.
“Our ladies department has just received new apparel along with our men’s stuff which are very trendy and they are being patronised by locals.”
Over the Crop Over season, the 112-year-old Broad Street department store has implemented numerous strategies to attract shoppers, including modelling shows, rum promotions and other activities in its back-to-school department.
Over on Prince William Henry Street, business at Woolworth’s is “flat” or “a little less than last year”, said managing director Martin Bryan. But he reported an uptick in sales over the last week of mugs, stockings and ‘Kadooment shoes’ for this weekend’s jump-ups, and anticipates a last-minute rush.
Bryan said: “Last week has been relatively busy, but not overly busy.
“You can look around here and see there is no mad rush.
“I think people are still very cautious in terms of their spending and according to what I understand, the Kadooment bands are down in terms of numbers, which equates to [fewer] items being sold for that event.
“But we are quite pleased with the last week or so.”
Describing local businesses as being in “a holding pattern”, Bryan said the need to “run a tight ship” was extremely important. But he, too, was very pleased with back-to-school shopping so far.
He told Barbados TODAY: “Certainly July was not too bad for back-to-school and the early buyers came out in their numbers.
“Once Kadooment is over and all the feting is done, back to school is in and all the parents start to focus on the kids.
“The stationery, socks, school uniforms, etcetera, and we are fully prepared for that.
“We have extra staff and most of our stock is in. So come Tuesday. we are shifting to ‘back-to-school gear’.”
Managing Director of ‘Abed’s’, Eddy Abed was one of the more optimistic merchants, describing the lead-up to Crop Over as encouraging in comparison to recent years.
He said: “It’s truthfully a combination of a lot of good factors and this year we have been really encouraged by what we’ve seen.
“I am extremely hopeful over the next week this will translate into sales at the cash register.
“But this year we have seen signs that make us encouraged, not only for the rest of the season but we hope it translates to better sales at the end of the year.
“Apart from the obvious necessary ingredients for the costume bands, there has been greater demand for both fabric and clothes for the many fetes leading up to Grand Kadooment.
“So we have tried our best to ensure we have a wide array and the best offerings available for the summer and it has been well received.
As for the back-to-school rush, Abed said many people have been coming into the Swan Street clothier to buy fabric for school uniforms, but the ready-made clothing sales had not picked up.
Officials at Cave Shepherd also described the back to school interest as “phenomenal” and noted partnerships with other business entities have given marketing efforts a much-needed boost.
Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Edward Clarke told Barbados TODAY there were signs that consumer confidence was slowly returning.
“Things are still pretty slow. We got the pre Crop Over pick up but I have not heard any significant change,” said Clarke.
He indicated that with visitors onshore for the festivities, businesses were also expecting a further increase in sales.
“We are hopeful and we have a couple more days to go,” said Clarke.
In relation to the back-to-school shopping, which is expected to increase in coming weeks, Clarke said he was hoping to see “more activity”.