Despite the inclement weather, shoppers came out in large numbers in the main commercial areas of the city on Saturday, reversing the slow business trend in the immediate pre and post-election periods.
Household furniture, appliances, carpets, curtains and other decorative items for the home seemed to have replaced the focus shoppers put on groceries in the pre-election period.
Stabroek News visited the Main Street branch of furniture retailer Courts Guyana, where persons could beseen sitting in sofa sets awaiting sales representatives to attend to them and to guarantee that no one else would purchase the chairs they had already eyed. A mini catfight was broken up after two women, who tried to sit in the same sofa, could be heard arguing over ownership, even though neither of them had yet had their credit status approved to seal the purchase deal.
Throughout the store there were crowds and manager Joel Lee informed that it was customary that nearer to Christmas sales would be higher. He stated that the store had planned in advance for the rush and had ample stock.
Shopper Michelle Duesbury and her friend told Stabroek News that they were actually comparing prices before buying. Duesbury stated that she needed a refrigerator and she was checking around, since even if the savings were small, they could go towards purchasing something else. “Courts is the fourth place I am checking. I don’t work for enough to buy it cash, so I have to look around… this hire purchase is murder, though, ’cause when I check, I would be paying almost two times for this fridge by the time I done, ” she said. “But what I gon do? Ah need it, so I have to buy it. Government need to do something more for people, man, especially women, and at Christmas time, ’cause it ain’t like they ain’t know Christmas is we thing. The lil back pay we got is like back pain, ’cause you have to work miracles to spend that money.”
While many stores were selling household appliances, only the major ones had a hire purchase system to accommodate some public servants. However, a few informed that there were ‘layaway’ plans available.
Ronald Cruickshank, General Manager of Singer Guyana, informed that compared with last year, sales remained the same. He stated that his company was anticipating ringing up additional holiday sales as most public and private workers were paid last week and it was around this time of the year that most persons begin large purchases. When asked if the November polls and the protests which followed had an impact on sales, he indicated that it had. “The protests did have a negative impact on sales. I am of the view that when there [are] elections in Guyana, it influences the way people shop. For that election period, sales were down but it is beginning to look good as it nears Christmas,” he said.
Fogarty’s and Guyana Stores had similar items to those seen in Singer and Courts and Lucky Dollar, although the crowds at the latter stores were greater in numbers.
The Chinese-owned stores, which can be found at almost every corner in the central shopping areas, were also filled. Many who were there voiced their concerns over the huge disparity between prices at those stores and those being asked for by road vendors who were selling the exact products.
A very vocal Miranda Scipio, who was at the time shopping with her granddaughter, said “Dem vendors overdoing on the street man and then they want to complain about [the Chinese] but [they] helping out the poor man who just want give their family a merry Christmas.” She showed Stabroek News a plastic storage container set, which she had just purchased for $1,450 and said that she had priced the same for nearly twice the cost at a nearby vendor’s arcade. “Is just crazy wuh these people going on with, man… check decorations, you will see and you will tell me two and three times the money,” she added.
Some vendors have capitalised on the fact that many homemakers do not have the time to make floral arrangements and as a result arrangements were retailing at prices from $5,000 to as much as $35,000.
Other items being sought by shoppers this week were softer home furnishings, such as table cloths, bed sheets, floor mats, curtains and rods. The traditional wire rods seemed to have lost popularity to metal valance rods and homemakers also seemed to prefer purchasing readymade panel curtains over fabric -styles. Both rods and panels were readily available at many stores, including Ariel’s located in the Gafoor’s mall and on Regent Street, which was the apparent choice of shoppers looking for quality curtains and fabrics.
Lamps, ornaments, artificial flowers and other household décor items were in abundance at stores such as Fon Roje on Cummings Street, Regent Electronics, and Giftland OfficeMax.
Giftland, which had most of the items shoppers were after, except home furniture, boasted a well-stocked electronics section, where the crowd comprised almost all men in sharp contrast to the make-up in other stores visited on Saturday.
That company’s CEO Ian Ramdeo informed that he was pleased the way shopping went in the run up to Christmas despite the elections tensions. “As a trend in Guyana, people become tense so people didn’t really buy anything. They probably were looking at past elections and anticipated the same… I am really proud of the way things have turned out this year after the elections. It shows that the citizens and society are maturing. They have shown that elections are a democratic part of every society and that the country should not come to a standstill because of it. Life goes on. People have to live. In my opinion, although there were protests, it did not have a major effect on business and for that I am grateful also. I now look forward to Christmas sales, which I anticipate would be high this year,” Ramdeo said.