PORT OF SPAIN businesses continued to complain of slow sales on Monday afternoon, days before Christmas, prompting concerns that shoppers might only be buying essential items this season.
Some employees believed shoppers had developed strict spending habits during the pandemic and continue to practice smart buying even in the endemic stage of covid19.
Charlotte Street is usually one of the busiest streets in the city leading up to Christmas but, on Monday, vendors and businesses complained that people had not been spending as they used to.
Along Henry Street, small groups of shoppers stopped in and out of stores but remained empty-handed.
Fredrick Street attracted shoppers hoping to catch bargains on curtains and household items at the cloth and small-appliances stores.
Small crowds gathered around street-side vendors selling mats, kitchen towels and toy stores.
Workers at Jumbo fashion on Charlotte Street said last week's sales were better, because the store would normally be packed with customers around the time Newsday visited on Monday. They were hoping things would pick up by Thursday.
Hummis hardware and variety store said sales had been good. People shopping in the store told Newsday they were mostly looking for cheap household items.
Kalel Kids Clothing personnel complained that business was struggling this season.
“Sales are not like how they used to be. It's horrible, people lost a lot of money because of the pandemic, so things are tight. We really need to make sales to clear our bill.
“It’s not like other Christmases. Even last year, the last week of Christmas was better and that was in covid19.
"Everybody saying the same thing: 'People like last-minute thing,' so we have to wait and see."
Vision Head Gear Discount Mart is also hoping for a change in consumer spending habits in the coming days.
“People now making money so they're not doing the elaborate spending they used to do. They are buying what they need and leaving what they don't need. People are shopping with caution. They are looking for bargains. I don't know what caused that.”
A watch vendor on Fredrick Street lamented how hard it had been trying to get a few of his small, reasonably priced watches sold, even after reducing his prices three times.
“It’s real slow. It’s horrible. I'm hoping things pick up in the last two days. Last year around this same time, was better. It’s either people cutting down or more people are unemployed.
A sales representative at Miguel Moses said increased prices had been turning customers away.
“Because they have to be digging deeper in their pockets, they leave the stuff, even if it is on sale. Right now things are not as how it was. Every year we have sale and we get large crowds. We're getting a little crowd but nothing like the other years. I think people waiting for a bigger sale.”
Fabric Land is also seeing abnormally slow sales.
“(It’s) very slow it’s not like the years before. Because, obviously, with the pandemic, people watching their money. They're only buying essentials. If it (sales) doesn't pick up now, it won't pick up in the coming days.”
Cookies and Cream Kids toy store seemed to be unaffected by the customer spending demonstrated elsewhere as toys on the shelves were going fast.
An emplyee said, “(Its) good, people buying toys. We can only expect things to get better during the two days before Christmas. Last year was the same for us. Today is only Monday and it’s a very busy day for us.”