“Business is slow. Some days we have to wait two days to break the ice (make a sale) but we cannot give up, if we give up we get nothing,“ this is the story, as related by Lyndon Hermanstine, a clothing vendor in the Vendors Arcade on Water Street.
His story is similar to the scores of other vendors who are selling in the arcade on Water Street. When Stabroek News visited last week the stalls were well stocked with items ranging from clothing to household items. The Water Street vendors were observed sitting at their stalls with expectations in their eyes, as they tried to lure passing customers into their shops.
Few had seasonal goods but they remarked that they are prepared for the influx of shoppers for the Christmas season, whom they expect to start pouring in this week.
Questioned on what could be the possible reason for so little activity in the arcade, vendors alluded to the facts that “money isn’t flowing” and cheap Chinese commodities on the market.
On the pavements of Water Street a different story was told, as they were filled to capacity with potential customers who navigated their way through the crowds, either window shopping or shopping.
“It is only patriotic shoppers come here or if they are looking for an item. People won’t come in here just like that,” Hermanstine said, while indicating that the quick access to Chinese commodities in other parts of the city, is also contributing to the death of the trading environment.
“This is a one stop shop place you have here with people selling different items. You come in and find clothes, household items, footwear and many other things,” he pointed out.
However, he believes that there should be a level playing field for fair business. “If there is a competition it must be fair. We are all paying our dues at the end of the month. They (government) need to put some regulation in place for shopping, so we can all have a fair share,” he opined.
Michelle Barry, who operates a variety shop and liquor restaurant, explained that some of her busy days are Fridays,” when workers knock off from work,” while adding that business in the arcade has “drop [ped] a lot” within the last two years. Barry noted that the location of her business is not an issue, despite the fact that her unit is located at the back of the arcade.
“The money is just not flowing like it used to, if you look around, you are not seeing anyone walking around,” she pointed out. Most of her customers she said are drawn from the ports and nearby businesses. She too, like others, is optimistic that as the time draws closer to Christmas, business will be brighter for them. “Well, we are hoping persons would come to clear their barrels and boxes for Christmas and we would have customers pouring in,” she said with hopefulness.
One retailer of household items explained that, while she enjoys the luxury of selling at the front of the New Vendors’ Arcade, business for this year has been “reasonable.”
“Sales for this season is now picking up. I have been able to get a sale like every 20 minutes to 30 minutes. But before the season started a sale would come in between every two hours,” the vendor pointed out.
However, for Olive Nedd, another vendor of household items inside the arcade, she cannot “predict sales these day.” Nedd said somedays would be good, while others “you have to wonder if you would get a sale.”
“I would come out in the morning not knowing what kinda day it would be, I might get three customer or none at all.” She too noted that the rise of the Chinese shops around the country has had a negative effect on their business. “They sell things way cheaper than us and we aren’t able to keep with them. But we still have to try,” she stressed.
The New Vendors’ Arcade also houses a few hair and nail salons, along with some barbershops. When Stabroek News visited, the barbershops were closed and the salons were all empty, with the one sole exception of one. An atmosphere of stillness loomed but the hairdressers remain hyped, as the festive season approaches. Sherry Hilliman explained that before the end of the business day they should be able to get a customer. She pointed out that most of the support for her business comes from loyal customers, but with Christmas around the corner she hopes to lure new clients. Hilliman noted that business is expected to pick up since staff parties and socials are in the air.
However, vendors pointed out that there are seasons when they would see sales climbing. And while they wished for a year of steady sales, it seems as if they will have to settle for seasonal sales during the periods of Mashramani, Easter, July/August and Christmas.
Potential Shoppers browsing at the front of the New Vendors Arcade
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An empty clothing and footwear aisle inside of the New Vendors Arcade
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A small group of potential shoppers cruising through a clothing aisle in the arcade
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