Guyanese consumers are being offered an additional electronic shopping option with the recent introduction of a new e-shopping service – the Trinidad and Tobago-owned e-zone shopping facility here.
E-zone General Manager Paul Pantin, who paid a brief visit to Guyana last week told Stabroek Business during an interview that the company had recently concluded an agreement with the local business entity, Business Unlimi-ted International, to serve as its agent in Guyana.
Pantin told Stabroek Business that the arrival of e-zone in Guyana provided “an additional and convenient shopping option” for Guyanese consumers who were desirous of acquiring the particular brands and types of products from anywhere in the world. Pantin said that what e-zone was seeking to do was to put consumers in a position not to have to settle for substitutes and imitations. “We can supply anything from a truck to a pair of shoes,” he said.
Business Unlimited Inter-national is a private sector business consultancy service set up by former Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament Chantalle Smith and former Sprint 151 Marketing Manager Jewel Mbozi. The local company will serve as a point of contact for consumers wishing to use the e-zone service to acquire products from outside Guyana.
Mbozi told Stabroek Business that the service provided by e-zone is the next best thing to consumers actually visiting the shops themselves. “A critical difference is that this service removes the need for shoppers to purchase airline tickets and pay for their accommodation in order to be able to shop in New York or London.
Mbozi explained that the e-zone facility provides for both membership by regular shoppers and for ‘one-off’ shoppers who may wish to acquire a particular item. She said that the Company’s services include engaging the customer to discuss the desired purchase, acquiring the item and delivering it directly to the buyer. “One of the particular advantages of what we do is that shoppers who acquire purchases from overseas are not required to bother about issues like customs clearance,” Mbozi said.
Mbozi told Stabroek Business that Business Unlimited International was also prepared to engage persons who may not have ready access to the internet service and who may wish to become familiar with e-zone shopping procedures. She said that the company was equipped to introduce potential customers to shopping sites that would enable them to become familiar with the various products and services being offered by manufacturers and distributors.
In his interview with Stabroek Business Pantin said that e-zone, which was established eight years ago, was currently offering its services to 16 Caribbean territories. He said that “the element of wide choice” which the company offered to its customers in the region “helped to compensate for the fact that there are not too many large shopping malls in the region where customers can simply walk in and get what they want.”
Pantin said that the use of the internet shopping facility usually required possession of credit cards or money transfer facilities which were not generally available to some people in the region. ‘What e-zone has been able to do in Guyana and in other parts of the region is to create facilities through which persons wishing to use the shopping facility can pay for their goods in local currency,” Pantin said.
According to the e-zone General Manager the removal of the requirement of access to credit cards and foreign currency was designed to make e-shopping more accessible to ordinary people.
Asked whether the popularization of e-shopping in Guyana and the rest of the region could provide “damaging competition” for the traditional distribution and retail trade Pantin said that he considered it “a good marriage.” He said that apart from the fact that e-shopping provided “another option” for customers, the facility allowed for competition in the commercial sector that could serve to enhance the quality of products imported into the region.
From the standpoint of the business operating the internet shopping service Pantin said that it removed the necessity to provide storage space for large quantities of stock as well as the “administrative implications” of keeping stock inventories.
Pantin said e-zone was currently working towards consolidating its contacts with product suppliers in various parts of the world including Asia and on examining additional airline routes that would enable the company to move products “more quickly and efficiently” to consumers in the region.
Smith told Stabroek Business that the agreement between Business Unlimited and e-shopping allowed the local company to design its own marketing and operational strategies to enhance the local use of the service. She said that among the strategies being considered by Business Unlimited was the allocation of franchises to local internet facilities. “What this means in effect is that we can decentralize the service and take it to various parts of Guyana. We can also open up new business opportunities for internet service providers,” Smith said.
Business Unlimited has commenced a local marketing and advertising programme for e-zone and Smith said that the company hopes to increase local demand for the service during the Christmas period.