ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Storeowners were yesterday expressing frustration at the slow pace of business for the 2011 yuletide season.
Some said the season is the worst in recent memory, while others said they have had to offer deep discounts to attract customers.
In any event, many are keeping their fingers crossed for a Christmas Eve surge.
One storeowner who requested anonymity told The Daily OBSERVER, “For me, the season’s shopping is no good. While I have generated a lot of business for the Christmas, I have had to substantially reduce my margins of profit to attract customers into the store. So while it looks as if the store is busy, at the end of it all, you have very little in it left for yourself.”
The entrepreneur said, “In my case or in many cases in Antigua, many people have had sales for the month of November and December to attract customers and to help customers because as we know, the economic situation in Antigua is dire, and this time of year, if you don’t make something, that’s the end of your business.”
Another complaint yesterday was the unpredictability of the payment of salaries for government workers, which has either rendered people broke or cautious.
“People are buying very conservatively, and all these things weigh on you, because at the end of the day, your fixed expenses remain the same. January to October have seen tremendous losses, losses big enough that no matter what you do in November and December you can’t make that back,” the storeowner said.
Another businessperson, a boutique owner, said business was “up and down,” with some people making purchases and many others just browsing.
“I think one of the contributing factors could be the amount of street vendors that we have out on this side. I experienced this at summer time, where you had a lot of people coming out and selling, and what they did was to price their stuff so it’s maybe like five or $10 below the store prices, and then, of course, they are able to grab customers because they are offering the same things we have at a cheaper rate,” the businesswoman said.
Even with one shopping day to go before Christmas, the woman could say with certainty that the take this season will fall below what it was last year.
Meanwhile, despite complaints of the competition from the street hustlers, vendors, too, complained.
“Business bad before Christmas and even now it’s Christmas, you can’t tell the difference. The past two or three years were alright, but coming up now, things very, very, very, very slow, real bad. Even when the tourists come and you tell them something costs $10, they wanna pay $3. Business now is like you’re begging, and if you don’t beg, people don’t buy. It’s real hard to sell your stuff for nothing, knowing you going home with just what you spent to get the goods,” one vendor said.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)