Long lines in Tobago, very little shopping

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LOOKING FOR BARGAINS: Customer Laura Nora shops for items for her home at Kristie on Wheels, opposite Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, on Saturday. PHOTO BY DAVID REID –

Although long lines of shoppers can be seen outside of supermarkets and other establishments in Tobago, business owners say this has not necessarily translated into increased sales for Christmas.

They reiterated businesses continue to be negatively affected by covid19.

“Basically, what we are seeing is people moving around. But, of course, you can’t use that as a gauge because if you look at the outside of all businesses, you would see lines now,” Kurt Warner, managing director of Penny Savers Ltd, told Newsday.

“So, lines do not necessarily mean that the sales are great. It is just that everybody has to adhere to the health protocols. So, you are going to have that.”

Nevertheless, with just days to go before Christmas, Warner said there has been an increase in sales.

“Naturally, there is the increase the week of Christmas. Is it in comparison to last year? I don’t think anybody could compare it in the sense of it being better than. But there is the general increase in sales at this point.”

Penny Savers has three outlets in Tobago – Canaan, Carnbee and Scarborough. It also has a pharmacy in Carnbee.

Warner said food items are the big sellers.

“Of course, the ham, which is traditional, and other Christmas goodies. So, it is really your typical foodstuff right now.”

Warner said complaining about the sales would not make any sense.

“We just have to pay attention to what is happening and try to work with what is coming to us. What would complaining change? It changes nothing.”

A manager at Stumpy’s Emporium, Milford Road, Canaan, who did not want to be named, said sales are fluctuating.

“It is going as well enough for the Christmas season as can be expected. You have busy periods and slow periods,” she said.

She said people are purchasing Christmas items and cleaning products.

“Everything else is on a break.”

Kern Baptist gets a remote toy car ready for sale at Toy Mart, Lowlands, last Monday. – DAVID REID

She observed there has been a marked decline in sales when compared to last year.

President of the Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce Diane Hadad also noticed a considerable decline in sales for Christmas.

She told Newsday: “From what I see and from the other business persons that I have spoken too so far, there is nothing spectacular happening and they don’t know that they expect anything spectacular in the 99th hour.”

However, Hadad observed people are coming to the island.

“I did observe some flights that came in over the weekend that had some unknown faces, which we welcome. Just seeing people coming to the island is a plus in itself.”

She added: “At the end of the day, we know that covid has hit everybody hard – small, medium and large. And so, we would be happy for whatever happens to close off 2020, and look forward to 2021. Hopefully the changes are drastic enough to make better for all of us.”

Explaining the reason for slow sales, Hadad said, “There is an apathy for spending and I think people are all ‘covid frightened’ and inside in a major way still.”

She said families should use Christmas as an opportunity to bond.

“I think it is a time that people need to spend with family; clean the sorrel together, bake the ham together and pray together. That is what I think needs to happen this Christmas.”

Hadad supported Warner’s view that people should not be misled by long lines.

“The banks have long lines outside but there is nothing happening because there are only four people inside.

“What people are seeing is a misinterpretation. So, is like me checking in the airport to go on a flight. If there is sanitising inside, all of us are backed up outside. But there is still only a certain number can sit inside.”

“It does not mean that CAL (Caribbean Airlines) is doing any more business. It simply means that they are flowing in a slow, methodical pattern. But there is no extra business. So, we need to be clear about that. This is the message that needs to be sent.”

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