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First VAT-free shopping day declared a hit

by Randy Bennett
4 min read

Long lines and lengthy wait times did not deter consumers from coming out in their numbers to take full advantage of today’s dubbed VAT-free shopping day.

From as early as 5 a.m. eager shoppers lined up outside supermarkets and retail stores hoping to be among the first to gain entry.

Long lines that snaked around buildings were seen outside some of the most well known shopping areas including Popular Discounts in Kendal Hill; Massy in Warrens, Pricesmart in Green Hill and Cherish in Bridgetown.

In many instances, dejected persons were forced to abandon their plans and seek alternative options because of the long wait.

Some business owners, however, did not participate in the event.

President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Anthony Branker said in most instances this was due to them not having the adequate IT services to make the price changes to items.

When Barbados TODAY visited Popular Discounts in Kendal Hill just after 1 p.m. scores of shoppers were still braving the hot sun waiting patiently.

Some complained they had been in the line for over five hours.

However, chief operations officer at Popular Discounts McArthur Barrow said everything had been running smoothly.

“We anticipated quite a large crowd because it’s VAT-free Monday and customers deserve a little break after a fairly rough two years so obviously we are very, very happy to accommodate them as best we can. We would have liked a little bit more notice but all the same we did our best and I think we got off to a good start,” Barrow said.

He also gave the assurance that Popular Discounts had not “jacked up” prices ahead of the highly-anticipated shopping day.

“I can tell you categorically that we certainly wouldn’t do that and to be honest I know of no supermarket that does that, but speaking strictly for Popular, of course not! We are all consumers too and our staff are consumers and so we want the best for our customers in terms of the price off. As I said it was short notice but we worked diligently over Sunday to ensure that all the VAT-free prices would be available and certainly there are no shenanigans going on,” the COO maintained.

He also said that Popular was adhering to the COVID-19 protocols.

Anne-Marie King, marketing manager at Courts Barbados Limited also promised that prices had not been increased prior to VAT-Free Monday.

“Absolutely not! If anything for us the challenge and the concern was to ensure we could actually take part in the VAT holiday. Of course, there are operational, IT logistical considerations when such a promotion is put on because it was very much like a Black Friday type of situation for us from an operational perspective so we really pulled out all the stops to ensure we could offer our customers the best value possible today and I’m happy to say we’ve been able to pull it off,” King said.

In Bridgetown at one of the island’s largest retail stores Bridgetown Duty Free, persons were hurriedly going about their Christmas shopping.

Location manager of DFC Barbados, Mark Clarke told Barbados TODAY the large crowds were expected.

“From the time we opened this morning we had a steady flow of traffic mainly patronizing our perfume department and our linens and housewares and gift department on the top floor. I kept an open mind and it is what I expected. I am actually embracing it because we are seeing a steady flow of traffic, manageable with all protocols so it’s been a good day so far,” Clarke said.

He pointed out that consumers were still able to make duty-free purchases throughout the day.

For the most part shoppers saw discounted shopping bills, though not as much as some would have hoped.

Mia Kirton, who braved the line at Popular Kendal Hill said she was grateful for the initiative.

“It’s Christmas so people will spend a little extra so that means the savings will be a little extra too. It wasn’t as much as I would have expected but I am still happy I was able to save something,” she told Barbados TODAY.

Another shopper who gave his name as Jerry disclosed he had saved over $100. However, he said he would have preferred if alcohol had been included.

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