Dozens of businesses on Monday joined the list of those struggling to reopen, following a period of dormancy brought on by the public health emergency.
Barbershops, salons, bookstores, home furnishings, and restaurants all restarted operations – some with restrictions still in place for phase three of the country’s economic reopening.
The week has begun with both optimism and uncertainty as employers attempt to avoid layoffs and sole traders struggle to keep their prices down.
Barber Adrian Watson, who has been operating for over 20 years near Eagle Hall, described the seven-week adjustment as an unexpected rest period in which he was forced to dip into his savings and apply for National Insurance Scheme (NIS) benefits.
Even with business restarting, he told Barbados TODAY the response from clients has been “tentative”, with some still exercising extreme caution and opting to stay away.
He has also expressed some concern about an unusual increase in prices from retailers for some of his essential supplies.
Watson said: “The face shields, the gloves and the equipment to spray down the stalls are more expensive. I don’t want to pick on anybody, but I have found that an additional price has been placed on many of these items that were priced before, sometimes an additional five or ten dollars on these things.
“Obviously, you don’t want to place that price on the customers at the beginning, but obviously, if it goes on for an extended period, you would have to look at adding costs. At the same time, you must bear in mind that many people are not working anymore and are facing an uncertain future financially.
“Personally, I believe that if some clients have been coming to you for a long time and you have built a certain relationship with those clients, you still have to be cautious about how you proceed where pricing is concerned because you don’t want to run people and you don’t want to create a situation where you have only three or four people instead of ten people a day because you have priced yourself out of the market.”
At Six Roads, St Philip, barber Charles Jazzie Harper revealed the shutdown became his first vacation in ten years and his most challenging period economically.
Unlike his colleague in Eagle Hall, his establishment has been operating by appointment for the last 18 months and he is now fully booked for Monday, Tuesday, and three-quarters of Wednesday, he said.
While he acknowledged that many of the safety adjustments have come at the sacrifice of physical comfort and additional costs, he acknowledges it is for the greater good and has vowed to do all in his power to keep his prices down.
Hairdresser Sharise Farrell has also recorded tremendous demand for her services but acknowledged that some people are still afraid to return due to the ongoing pandemic.
She told Barbados TODAY: “It can come at a cost because the alcohol that you have to provide, additional soap, and disinfectants around the salon and in terms of the capes. which must be discarded and washed after first use. That is an increase in water and laundry detergent as well as the electricity to use the dryer.
“It is definitely more expensive, but we all have to work with each other and understand each other’s financial situations.”
As retailers reopened in The City, Martin Bryan, Managing Director of Woolworth described a “disastrous” seven weeks as employees were given the option of accepting paid vacation for most of the period
Now that they are back at work, their hours have been reduced to approximately three days a week, as management attempts to calculate the cost of the shutdown, he said.
“Obviously we had zero revenue over the last few weeks, and we had some expenses going out because things like electricity don’t shut down. Some of our landlords worked with us, but March and April were disastrous,” Bryan disclosed.
As tourists vanished, so too has the store’s once-popular souvenir department. It has now been replaced by a grocery with mostly canned goods.
Kites and easter eggs which would usually sell out over the Easter period are still sitting on the shelves and will likely continue to remain there for the foreseeable future.
At the Bridgetown Port, four containers full of stock wait for clearance. The goods likely will not be sold in a hurry.
“We expect the next few months to be challenging, but in saying that, we reckon that our product offerings are good and with not most people no longer travelling we expect an improvement in local spend,” said an optimistic Bryan.
At Abed’s on Swan Street, Managing Director Eddy Abed said despite offering cloth for the production of facemasks over the shutdown period, his business has taken a tremendous hit.
Saying that the health of his employees remains at the front of his mind, Abed said numerous protocols have been implemented to sanitize the store.
As he prepares for the possible reopening of the store’s clothing section, Abed said he has already started mulling a new normal in which changing rooms could be abandoned and all merchandise handled by customers is sanitised.
Abed told Barbados TODAY: “It’s not the way we like doing things but it’s the way we will do things, there’s no question about it… if there turns out to be a better way of making the mousetrap, we will look at it.
“Of course, I am a father, and a brother and I am a son and I understand family. I do not want any of my people infected so we will go to the extremes to make sure this doesn’t happen.”