Store owners in Tobago complained of slow sales on Monday, six days before Christmas, and there is little expectation for things to improve significantly.
Newsday visited several establishments in Scarborough and Canaan as well as the Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, and business owners say the sector is still being negatively affected by the two-year covid19 pandemic.
Stores in Scarborough opened 8 am, but there was only a trickle of customers. A vendor selling household items such as mats, rugs, curtains and bedsheets said it would take some time before sales return to pre-pandemic levels.
“People just don’t have money – that’s the bottom line. Place dead now, sales slow, it really hasn’t changed since covid19. People just don’t have the disposable income like before. The disposable income is not there for a lot of people. I mean as business people, we expect to see a lot of people out here, knowing how people love their house and love this season, but it is not going to be that influx of people many hope to see. Let’s be realistic.”
She added: “People may look for the necessities. I expect things to be quite slow as it has been all season long. It’s never going to get back to the level it was before, and businesses need to recognise that and plan their business accordingly.”
Another vendor nearby said sales are nothing compared to how they were before the pandemic.
“It is pretty slow right now.”
She plans to operate outside of her usual opening hours to hopefully cash in on the last-minute shoppers.
At the Lowlands mall, one store manager shared similar sentiments. She said there has been no uptick in sales.
The children’s stores were also not filled with customers. One employee said things were looking grim even before the Christmas season started.
“We have people coming in and out and just buying exactly what they need, but when compared to previous years, people bought more items – I think people just don’t have money. I think people are they are prioritising where and what their money is spent on.”
She said they are hoping for a last-minute rush.
Shopper Patricia Caruth, 43, said she will be taking a different approach to her Christmas shopping this year.
“Covid19 has taught a lot. I will be doing some smart shopping this Christmas. I’ve prioritised my gift list and really had to take a look at who I wanted to give gifts to this year.
“My items at home will be mixed and matched. Food for me and my family is what is important. For the last two Christmas I didn’t have anyone over by me, so I’ll be reusing most of my things, like curtains and the ornaments/decorations.”
Her friend Christiana Forde said, “The only new thing I buying this year is bedsheets, but I here looking at what on sale to compare. I’ve already bought my gifts so I have that out of the way.”
Alex McKenna, 28, was seen at a grocery pushing a trolley through the aisles, which were not busy. He said, “Right now I can’t even begin to study Christmas gifts. I need to see about making sure my family can eat something next week. I can’t be about that Christmas life this year.”
Evans Patrick, 47, who was perusing a décor store, said, “This year I’m only buying gifts for my wife and our baby girl. I’ll be doing some touch ups around the house so I just came to get a new paintbrush and few décor items. Once my little family is happy, I am happy.”
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