Vendors who have been relocated from the Stabroek Market Square to the temporary site at Lombard and Hadfield streets are complaining of a noticeable drop in business since the move.
Some vendors told Stabroek News that while they appreciate the facilities available at the site, such as the washrooms, running water, overhead lights and security, they are concerned at the poor flow of customers, the location of their stalls and limited space.
Vendors began occupying stalls at the site on Saturday, after losing almost a week of business as they awaited the preparation of the location by City Hall, following their removal from the Stabroek Market Square. The removal of the vendors had triggered protests as well as criticism of City Hall for forcing their removal without preparing a site for their relocation.
Dawn France, a clothing vendor who has opted to sell at the site, said yesterday had been the slowest day in her 34 years of selling.
When she spoke with Stabroek News, she said that she had only sold $1,500 worth of merchandise. She explained that if she were on the road, she would have met her target. “Time like now, I would have hit bingo,” France said.
Asked the difference between selling in the compound and selling on the road, she explained that selling on the road is more “free up… you had people traversing and if they see something they like, they buy it… but in here you have to beg people to buy.”
Cassius Peters, who has been a vendor for 25 years, said “everything is left to God” when he was approached for a comment.
He explained that he had set up his stall since Sunday and customers have been “coming in but not shopping as much.” He hopes that when customers become aware of the location, business would pick up.
Peters, however, raised concerns over the temporary location.
City Hall had asked vendors to sign contracts to stay at the site for only three months.
Peters questioned what would happen at the end of the three-month period and called on City Council to find a permanent solution before the period comes to an end. He recommended that the City Council seek a prime spot in the commercial district that would attract customers.
At yesterday’s statutory meeting of the City Council, it was announced that the council would be meeting on Thursday to discuss the way forward for the vendors.
The clothing vendors also complained about the tents two vendors were forced to share. They suggested that each vendor should have his/her own tent.
A drinks vendor, Cynette Phillips said she has been adapting to the new location and has been getting customers. She pointed out that since Saturday she began to sell and customers have been visiting the area. Phillips said she is comfortable at the site. “It is better than having to pay a junkie to pull your cart every time you want to move,” she said, though she noted that while she was on the road she was able to turn over stocks at a faster rate.
On the other hand, a vendor, who asked to remain anonymous, said even though she welcomed the new environment it is difficult for two persons to sell under one tent due to the limited space. As a result, she called on the City Council to review the decision to have two persons sharing a tent.
Fruit vendors, who also operate inside the compound, also complained bitterly about the drop in sales. The vendors have invested in repainting their stalls to comply with the city’s request for uniformity but it hasn’t helped them to attract customers.
Gillis (only name given) said that when she was out on the road she would have earned between $3,000 and $5,000 before 9 am. When this newspaper spoke to her close to noon, she said she had not earned anything. “You know, when we were on the road I would have done get a sale. I would ah done make a three, four, five thousand. People used to jump out of the bus and if they see nice fruit they would buy it quick time and go on their way,” Gillis said.
Another vendor, Lorieen Stephens, told Stabroek News she suffered great losses last week after she was prevented from selling. There were only two parcels of oranges at her stand yesterday.
She said because of losses from the spoilt goods she was unable to purchase fresh fruits to retail. “Look, you see I am here, I don’t have any money to go and buy goods. I have to pay for the spoil goods and then find money to buy fresh goods… right now, it’s hard. I barely have food at home and money to give my children to get to school… The oil bottle empty, the rice and sugar almost finished. They [City Council] put we here. You think they care how we survive? They interested in what look nice for the jubilee,” a distraught Stephens said.
Stephens said she began to vend after she was separated from her husband. She said she thought of becoming a guard but she had small children to look after and vending was the fastest way for her to earn a living.
The fruit vendors, in a unified voice, complained about their stalls being located behind two rows of beverage vendors. They said their current location prevents them from being visible to customers and they are calling to be relocated to spots at the front of the site.
Vendor Mark Adams said it seems as if the city administration has no respect for the people. He said if it did, it would have selected a suitable commercial spot and allow them to vend. He said that moving to the Lombard and Hadfield streets location puts pressure on the vendors as it is hard for them to get sales with so few customers.
Another vendor, Miriam Estwick, said it seems as if the council is interested in satisfying the “foreigners coming for the jubilee who spend little money in the country for a short period of time.”
Estwick added that it was the Guyanese who spend all their money during the celebrations and the council and government should have looked after the interest of the people.