When you walk through downtown Port of Spain, Christmas is in the air. The familiar sounds of Scrunter asking Leroy where his mother gone and Soca Santa fill the streets. Stores and street merchants are readying themselves for the Christmas rush – but it has already begun.
La-shauna Yatali is a street vendor on Frederick Street. Her company, Caribbean Artisan, makes skincare soaps and scrubs.
Yatali said, "It is my first year. I don't know what to expect but so far, it's been going really great.
"I am looking forward to Boxing Day, because you know Boxing Day sale is a big thing now, and I'm looking forward to that week before Christmas, 'cause you know, Trinis just love last minute."
Yatali's partner Petra Cayman works alongside her and was making beaded jewellery when Newsday visited them on Monday. Cayman's company is Bespoke Beads.
She said, "This year is better than last year. I have evolved. We do ethnic fabric as well, but we cut down, because it's not something customers gravitate to, around this time."
Shelly-Ann, a worker at the Car Wizz in Excellent City Mall, which sells car accessories like seat covers, wipers and cleaning agents, said, "Things started to pick up over the weekend – a little bit – versus October and November. It was like still slow and still dead."
She said the company has been running ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok in the hope of attracting more customers.
Shelly-Ann said Car Wizz had been in the mall for four years, but this is the first time the store has been on the ground floor.
"In my opinion, upstairs was doing much better, but then we had the gap for covid and Digicel took the whole of upstairs. We anticipated downstairs the traffic would be more, but no. We only saw the slight increase this past weekend."
Jodey Edmund is the manager at Anton's Gold Rush on Frederick Street. Edmund said there are definitely increased sales for Christmas.
She said people have been buying a lot of gifts since November, mainly rings, chain and pendants and jewellery with birthstones or hearts.
Edmund said, "Last year was a good Christmas, even with covid: jewellery was at the top of their lists. People were requesting jewellery – especially the females were letting the men know what they want is jewellery."
She said at Christmas time, there has never been a pandemic-related slump in sales.
Ronald Jay, manager at Bradford City Store, said, "You can see it's not as bright as we'd like it to be. But as long as there is life, there is hope."
Jay said sales at Bradford were even worse than last year. Bradford has been on Henry Street since 1956, and at that location since 1990. Jay believes the declining sales are caused by the state of the economy.
"Price of food escalating every time you go in the grocery. Food costing more.
"So I think after people buy their food, they don't have money for any other purchases. If they have a shirt, they'd wear it for two more years, because if they buy it at Bradford, it's quality merchandise."
Further north on Henry Street, Newsday spoke to Yolande James, a customer at Jimmy Aboud: The Textile King. James said she is not spending as she did in years past.
"I am on a budget."
James came to get curtains, sheets and a bathroom set. It's the first time in two years she has bought new curtains as she braced for the worst during the pandemic. She said she has seen mixed pricing in Port of Spain: "Some cheap, some expensive – all depend on what you're looking for."