Shop-owners in Scarborough, and tenants at the Milford Road Esplanade mall, are eagerly waiting on Tobagonians to begin their Christmas shopping, and are particularly looking to the promise of additional customers to the Christmas Village to help boost sales.
They wonder, however, at the impact that problems on the sea-bridge would have on operations, whether consumers would have money to spend and if they will still head to Trinidad to shop, despite unpredictable inter-island transport.
Selwyn Angus, owner of Shirley’s clothing store, noting slow sales last Thursday, was hoping business picks up from this week.
“This year is not the best. We in Tobago do not stand a chance with Trinidad businesses. Our people will still leave and go to Trinidad to shop, despite the issues with the air and sea bridge.
“I’ll have to wait, watch and see because we still have many Tobagonians who shop late in Tobago,” he said.
Mr Cupid at So Special clothing store, felt problems with inter-island transportation was both a good and bad thing for business, but also noted that consumers just do not have the money to spend.
“For now, things are slow. People willing but they are crying because they don’t have money to shop. Normally it would be picking up all now.
“The way I see it, the headache the boat is causing, people will decide to stay in Tobago to shop but then again how will the businesses get their goods. I am hoping by Christmas, sales pick up,” he said.
For tenants of the Milford Road Esplanade mall, their hopes for a successful season lie with expected visitors to the “Christmas Village” being hosted by the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour from December 11-16 on the Esplanade. Seventy-three entrepreneurs have been invited to display Christmas goods at booths.
Bar owner at the de mall, Limon Moore, has adopted a wait and see attitude, hoping that visitors may turn out to be additional customers, but also mindful that competing with 73 entrepreneurs just might be bad for business.
“It’s a good idea. I want to see how it goes, so I will wait patiently and stock up for these days. However, having 73 other entrepreneurs might slow down business but it I will just have to be creative and market better,” he said.
D’ Phone Doctor’s Christo Stewart, also on the mall, said any initiative that helps bring customers would be welcomed but he also saw challenges.
“I think the tenants at the Esplanade would still have to fight to get people to come into our booths. The businesses that they (Division of Community development) are inviting onto the Esplanade don’t have to pay any rent like us and their being on the outside, will make our jobs harder,” he said.
“If visitors don’t see the products, they won’t buy it and what they see first will catch their eyes. The persons outside will have more sales. For us on the Esplanade mall, Christmas don’t ever look bright because this area is out of the way,” he added.
Another tenant, operating MG Photo Studio, does not expect the “Christmas Village” would be of value to him.
“I agree with the idea, the more traffic through here the better but I don’t think it targets me. I am not a Christmas business and I am not going to sell cakes just for the occasion,” he said.
One other tenant, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that consultation with the tenants about the plan to set up the Christmas Village would have been appreciated. She said while the idea was a good one, it was disrespectful to just hand tenants a flyer announcing the Christmas Village.
For owner of the bar, the Institute of Maureen Affairs, the Christmas Village was a great idea that she expects would bring in additional revenue. She doesn’t expect entrepreneurs selling Christmas goods to affect her business unless they were selling liquor drinks. She also felt the Division should have consulted with tenants and provided information on what the entrepreneurs would be selling so as to not have a negative impact on the mall’s tenants.
At the “Twelve A” food stall, the spokesperson also welcomed the idea of the Christmas Village but wondered “why didn’t
they (Division) leave us to sell out things. We could sell black cakes too. They on the outside have the upper hand. I welcome the plan but we (tenants) should have had the opportunity first to make this little money for Christmas.”
A spokesperson at Fish Ways and Beyond welcomed the Christmas Village, seeing it as much needed as advertisement of the Esplanade mall “since the place is always slow.”
“I welcome the idea, it will bring more activity to the area. I am hoping this would boost our Christmas sales. We already don’t make enough money to pay the rent that just increased,” she said.