Business drop!

State of emergency forces retail outlets to offer huge discounts

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-Large
cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — A number of business operators across Montego Bay are offering huge discounts on merchandise as they seek to lure customers to retail stores, in the wake of the imposed state of public emergency on St James, which they say has resulted in declining sales.

Checks carried out by the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week revealed that MK Mart, Sterling Fashions, Bascho, Lloyd's Department Store and Peter's Fashions were among a numbers of retail outlets in the resort city offering up to 25 per cent discount on most items.

“Sales are slow, we need to cover our rent, so we are having a sale right now,” a supervisor at MK Mart, located on St James Street, told the Jamaica Observer West.

According to him, the store, which sells a wide array of clothing and accessories, has seen a marked decline in the sales of items that he said, are usually bought by people going to parties.

“Not many parties are being held now, so those types of items are not selling a lot,” he explained.

He added that since the state of public emergency a number of the employees are being allowed to leave work earlier than usual, so as to allow them do their shopping, and to get off the streets early.

Hope Sterling of Sterling Fashions, who operates her store on the upper section of Market Street, said “up here is ghost town at nights, not much people coming up this side of the town.”

She too, has seen a sharp decline in sales in recent weeks, and is offering massive discounts on selected items.

The state of public emergency was declared in St James on January 18, in a bid to stem the spate of murders and other crimes in the parish. Two weeks later, members of the House of Representatives voted to extend the measure by three months, until May 2.

The opening hours for businesses in St James were also extended, thereby allowing clubs and fast-food restaurants to operate until 2:00 am instead of the previously imposed closing time at midnight.

And businesses with a tavern licence are now allowed to operate until 10:00 pm instead of 9:00 pm, while service stations and supermarkets/ grocery shops/ stores have been granted an additional hour and should close their doors by 11:00 pm and 8:00 pm, respectively.

But, Andre Dixon, the general manager at the Hard Rock Café Montego Bay, said even with the relaxation of the hours of operation, business at the facility is not good.

“Business has been grave,” he emphasised.

“It (state of public emergency) is happening at a time when we should be reaping the greatest benefits. And even though we now have an extension of the hours that we can stay open, than when it just started, what we find now is that most people are not staying out later than 8:00pm, while many are just not coming out,” he argued.

He noted that over the past three weeks the facility has been experiencing a 30 per cent reduction in business, when compared to the corresponding period last year.

Additionally, Dixon said, the company's 105 members of staff have had to be rotated due to the fall-off in sales.

He noted further that some employees are being allowed to make adjustments to their regular shifts, because they might be curfews in the areas where they reside.

“We have to take into consideration the welfare of the employees,” Dixon stressed, adding that “we want the crime to stop, but “it's just unfortunate that is (state of public emergency) came at this time of the year.”

The Pelican, one of Montego Bay's popular eatery, is also experiencing a downturn in business.

“It is having a negative impact. The people abroad are having a much more negative impression of the state of emergency than the reality on the ground. They mistakenly think that everything is out of control … so we have to be assuring visitors that it's safe to come here,” said a source at the facility.

But, Anthony Pearson, proprietor of Lloyd's Department Store, with locations on St James Street and Fairview Shopping Centre in Montego Bay, said that he has seen an uptick in business over the past last few weeks.

“When the state of emergency just started there was a significant drop in sales, between 20-25 per cent, but since the relaxation of the opening hours, sales have been getting better.

He noted that the ongoing massive sale at his stores has nothing to do with the state of public emergency.

“We always have a sale, at this time of the year. It's traditional and the people look forward to it,” said Pearson.

Meanwhile, the security forces are reporting that there were no murders in St James last week.

In fact, to date, there has been a 50 per cent reduction in murders in the parish when compared to the corresponding period last year.

In 2017, the parish recorded a record 335 murders.

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