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Larenzo Hudges CEO of Ferreira Optical, Angella Persad Executive Chairman Office Authority Ltd (Trinpad), left, and Roxanne Defreuts CEO of Massy Stores right cut the ribbon of officially open the Ferreira Optical and Trinpad store at Massy stores Supercentre in La Romaine on Monday.

While many businesses focus on surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferreira Optical and Trinpad are expressing confidence in T&T’s economic recovery, opening new outlets inside Massy Supercentre in Gulf View.

In a unique move, both companies now occupy spaces which once held Massy’s Furniture and Appliances section.

Ferreira Optical has eight branches, and the Massy Supercentre outlet is a relocation from Gulf City Mall.

At yesterday’s launch, Ferreira Optical’s CEO Lorenzo Hodges said it was a cost-effective move as Massy Stores offered a competitive rental package and the location ensures high traffic.

He explained that during the initial shutdown, malls stayed closed for months during the government’s COVID-19 measures and fear of contracting the virus led some people to stay away. However, supermarkets remain an essential service, and with the unpredictability of the pandemic, the new location ensures people will be in and around the outlet.

“Looking into the future, we see commerce and consumer behaviour shifting significantly. What we had to do was go to where our customers are. What the pandemic has done is show that where retail is concerned, malls are volatile. Specific to COVID-19, malls were defined as nonessential, and that is not unique to Trinidad. If you look at all of our malls across Trinidad, they have been significantly impacted, with them coming down to 40 and 50 per cent occupancy in terms of the businesses that are there. Less and less persons are going to malls,” Hodges said.

As many businesses suffer low revenues, Hodges said Ferreira Optical is fortunate as their customers remain loyal.

Having to close in April along with the retail sector, he said this year is financially challenging. With limited revenue, the company had to find ways to cut costs and wanted to do that without cutting staff. The relocation was one such way, and Hodges said they are now on the recovery path.

However, he admits the economy remains uncertain amidst the pandemic.

In the meantime, the company’s focus is providing quality service for providing protective, casual and prescription eyewear and examination of eyes to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Even that is a challenge as the pandemic has changed consumer behaviours: some people are choosing not to interact with the public while others are losing their jobs.

Hodges explained: “As customers have responded to the pandemic, there are a couple of things that have impacted our customer base.

“One is people have lost jobs, and so we’ve seen cases where customers booked an appointment and even started jobs with us. Then they call and say ‘listen, I just lost my job’. That is a real thing. People are hurting, and of course, it troubles us that people are hurting.”

The company is responding by offering more affordable packages.

Trinpad enters retail market

Trinpad, a division of Office Authority is confident of an economic turn around as it ventures into the retail industry.

Executive chairman Angella Persad said the company sees yesterday’s opening as a launching pad for its retail division in T&T.

“It is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time. As a matter of fact, this journey started five years ago. We were talking to Massy five years ago about this idea, so it is not a new idea. It is the natural progression for our business because retail is a forward integration of the businesses we are already involved.”

Trinpad previously operated as a manufacturer, printer and a distributor of stationery, office supplies and business equipment. The store now allows customers another way of getting personal prints on photographs, books and textures. Also, the store has stationery and gifts.

Persad admitted her company took a big gamble in expanding during the pandemic. However, she said there is a lot of enterprise and courage. She said the opportunity presented itself and they grabbed it.

While schools are now online, Persad said students still require stationery and the store’s gift ideas are unique so the company believes the risk would be worthwhile.

She also believes that soon, children will return to the traditional school setting.