Shop from home: major retailers offer online sales, deliveries

Police officers were deployed in downtown Port of Spain on Saturday and made sure people were not gathering in numbers larger than five. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Police officers were deployed in downtown Port of Spain on Saturday and made sure people were not gathering in numbers larger than five. - SUREASH CHOLAI

Shop from home. This is the message major retailers are sending to customers as they step up measures to curb the numbers of shoppers in stores as TT grapples with the spread of covid19.

Pricesmart, Massy Stores and Pennywise Cosmetics Ltd all began promoting online orders and the use of mobile apps to place orders for curbside pick-up, in response to crowds outside their branches despite the pandemic orders on social distancing that people must be six feet apart.

The retailers fall under the essential services category for supermarkets and pharmacies.

The move by leading businesses to support Government’s efforts to combat covid19 was applauded by Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon. “I am so very encouraged,” Gopee-Scoon said on Saturday, thanking the private sector for coming on board Government’s efforts to flatten the curve.

She recalled that while there was some initial concern, most of the essential businesses have “got the picture” and were doing what they can to promote social distancing. She said the retailers were not only ensuring goods remained available but were applying the principle of “health first” at this critical time.

Gopee-Scoon said those businesses who are not in compliance are asked to fall in line to ensure the six feet distance is maintained between members of the purchasing public. Pennywise Cosmetics launched a mobile app which allows customers to place orders for items not exceeding $200. Through this app, customers are advised which Pennywise store they can collect their items from.

Massy Stores announced that it will soon be doing a curbside pickup service. An ad on the company’s webpage said this service will allow customers to “get your groceries without setting foot in the store.” This service is for orders valued at $250 and over. Massy said the service will be available at stores in Marabella, Trincity, Mandalay (Arima), St Augustine, Westmoorings, St Ann’s and Chaguanas. The service will be rolled out to other branches in due course. Orders can be placed at any time using Massy Stores’ mobile app. Orders received before 4 pm will be processed within 24 hours.

Shoppers gather at the entrance of Pricesmart, in Port of Spain last week failing to take the necessary precautions to stand six feet apart to prevent the possible spread of covid19. - SUREASH CHOLAI

Pricesmart is also scheduled to start a delivery system to reduce crowds at its branches in Mucurapo, Chaguanas and Mausica. A statement from Pricesmart said payment will be done by credit card, customers will fill out a form which will be processed before they receive the cost of their items and payment approval. Orders need to be placed at least one day in advance. Deliveries will be made from Monday to Friday, between 10 am and 3 pm. The dry and cold goods (which will be transported cold) will be covered by this service. There is a $75 delivery fee within a ten mile radius of stores. This will be revised with respect to longer distances. Customers are advised to e-mail or WhatsApp requests to Pricesmart representatives for their deliveries.

Superpharm too is offering customers a WhatsApp service to place orders and collect items at selected branches.

On April 1, the Supermarket Association urged members to ensure customers to stay six feet apart from each other in lines outside of supermarkets. The association warned, “Should crowds inside or out become a congregation, the TT Police Service can arrest customers who are not obeying the law. The association added, “You don’t want to be the cause of a shutdown of your favourite store in your community.”

On Saturday, the Energy Chamber also said its member companies are closely following the essential services regulations. In a statement, the chamber said a survey of its members showed companies are only sending the most essential frontline workers to job sites. Noting the regulations on an essential service, the chamber said this sector “keeps the country’s lights on.”

On average, the survey said 63 per cent of energy company employees are working from home. Only 22 per cent are on job sites, with the remaining 15 per cent being placed on leave. The chamber said all of its staff are working from home and several other organisations have 100 per cent of their workers doing the same.

The chamber said it supports the initiatives to curb the spread of the virus and “strongly urges its members to only have the minimum number of workers needed to safely and reliably run these essential services, out to work at job sites.”

On April 3, the Communications Ministry issued the latest covid19 orders, Public Health Regulations No 7. Under the new regulations, some activities are banned from April 3 to April 15.

These include public gatherings of five or more people in any public place. It also bans the gathering of people at beaches, rivers, springs or streams, unless they are there performing an essential service. Other activities such in-house dining in restaurants, religious gatherings in which the number exceeds five people and public transport carrying half the number of passengers they are licensed to carry are banned from April 3 to 30. TT’s borders remain closed during this period as well.

Last week, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and National Security Minister Stuart Young expressed concern that people were not keeping apart at banks and supermarkets. This prompted Griffith to threaten to shut down banks, supermarkets and other businesses if people failed to adhere to the social distancing rules. Young said he spoke with the CEOs of commercial banks to ensure customers complied with the order.

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