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Arima merchants, vendors: Quiet optimism in a slow season
Senior reporter MICHELLE LOUBON gives an account of shopping in Arima and Chaguanas where the consensus among merchants, hucksters and shoppers was that there was “cautious spending” this Christmas season. Shoppers were prioritising their spending, preferring to focus on necessities before moving to luxury items.
Arima merchants and hucksters blamed slow sales on the state of the economy. The consensus was that, compared to previous years, there was decreased economic activity during the pre-Christmas period. Another prevailing view was, people were splitting their monies between Christmas and Carnival periods.
However, there were those who who felt Government should take full responsibility for the slowdown such as maxi taxi driver Andre Griffith. He said, “I think it is the Government. People are not shopping. When (former PM) Patrick Manning was in power, there was a lot of money.
I never saw a year that was so slow. All now people would have been travelling with plenty bags. People would have been going to Tunapuna and San Juan to shop. It is not happening. Arima dead. It’s not happening.
“Maybe, by next week it would pick up.” Random checks with hucksters like candy sellers confirmed “things were slow.” Propped against wads of pink and green candy, Krishie Rampersad said, “There is no set of spending. People are waiting for last minute. Arima dead.” Salesgirl Debra Checkley said people were prioritising with groceries and household items.
“We offer fashion (hats at $375). Fashion would be last on the list.” At a popular fashion store, its manager confirmed there had been a sharp decrease in sales compared to previous years. But curtains, towels, blankets and comforters were hot sellers. There was a queue waiting to cash their purchases at the register. At V’s Variety shop, manager Christopher James said sales were improving “day by day.”
“Each day it is picking up a bit.” But he felt it was important to price items for the customer at Christmas. “Everybody wants something in their house. So you have to offer good prices on selected items.” Among the hot sellers were nightgowns at $50 and toys which ranged from $10 and up. “We have toy cars for $12. We have fruit mats at $50. They are popular sellers.”
At Pro Queen Street, businesswoman Makeda Agrillon said, “Sales were slow. At the end of the day, there is more turnover. Sometimes it gets a little busy in the afternoon.” She surveyed the kiosks stacked with hair accessories and shoes. Salesgirl Lisa Ogiste said, “Things were dead. But it would pick up.”
“People are afraid to shop. They are spending less,” was a popular sentiment. Nevertheless, the stores were heavily stacked with Christmas decorations ($10 and up), toys (dolls at $18) artificial flowers (poinsettias for $25) and curtain panels at ($100 for 3).”
A stone’s throw from the Brazil taxi stand, baker Jesse Thomas enjoyed brisk sales. He sold bread, black cake and sweet bread ($75 to $125) from his car trunk. “Sales are okay,” he said. A short distance away Marcus Fresh sold sorrel at $6 a cup.
Arima mayor: Stop wreckers, give people a break
Asked about Christmas shopping in the borough, he said, “I would like to see the wrecker off to give the people a break. We are celebrating 125 years as a borough. Arima is a blessed town. I believe shopping will pick up. Things will pick up. People like last-minute shopping. Now everything is ready-made...even curtains. Start-up is a little late.”
He reminded citizens about the Christmas need for sharing. He felt the hucksters had been properly accommodated at the flea market at Farfan Street. “We have identified a place with lights and tents. It is in the heart of the town. We have been blessed. We expect two good seasons...Christmas and Carnival.”
Flea market vendors complain
On the flip side, flea market vendors complained vehemently about the leaking tents and lack of customers. Among those who felt they were at a disadvantage due to their location were Helen Courtney, Sharon Courtney and Samantha Samuel. “They should put us back on the streets. We not making a cent here for Christmas.”
They also felt they needed to give their children a bit of Christmas cheer. But if they got no monies from selling items like tea towels, toys, bric-a-brac, their children would not be happy. While slicing onions for hot dogs, vendor Gloria Daniel said, “The place real slow. Sales down. Nothing much happening in the car park.” They also complained that they had to use pieces of cardboard to avoid walking on the muddy floor.
Businessman Raj Jadoo: People are budgeting
Asked about shopping, Jadoo said, “I can’t complain. But it could be better. People are budgeting because long ago people are spending freely. I don’t know if it is the state of the economy, it is not as prevalent in terms of a lot of employment. People are buying the necessities. And they are no longer buying the fringes. We are surviving.
“All in all, the people look happy and contented. Once they could get the basics, I think they are quite happy. I have noticed with Trinidadians they are going for the better quality items. Spend $5 or $10 and get a good item. I brought in one or two special items, and I found people bought it. That is a good indicator.” He welcomed the increased police presence and he hoped 2013 would see the “implementation of multi-storey parking facilities in Arima.”
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