Shoppers along the Chaguanas Main Road. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

Chaguanas businessmen say they are not expecting the retail sector to pick up overnight, as the retail sector across the country officially reopened today, after being closed for quite a while because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stores in the Central Borough opened up as early as 8 am along the Main Road.  However, there was only a trickle of customers. 

Store manager Vishnu Charran, who runs the Charran’s Plaza opposite the Chaguanas Market, said it may take a year before sales return to pre-pandemic levels.

Charran observed that people simply do not have the disposable income like before. He said things were slow in the bookstore section for a back-to-school season

“Disposable income is not there for a lot of people.  The retail sector opened this morning, and we expect to see a lot of people out there. However, it is not going to be that inflow of people many hope to see,” Charran said. 

“People may look for the necessities. I expect things to be quite slow.  It’s never going to get back to the level it was before, and businesses need to recognize that and plan their business accordingly,” he added.

Chaguanas businessman, Vishnu Charran. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

Shoppers told Guardian Media that they were mostly shopping for shoes and under garments.

A 40-year-old woman from Charlieville told us:

“I have to buy shoes and underwear; these are things I must get. I don’t have a lot of money to buy new clothes. There are really no occasions to attend. I have my work clothes and the few clothes I have at home. Two of my children are jobless because of the pandemic and I have to support them. Every day is a struggle.”

Business was also slow at the malls.

Richie Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) said 80 percent of businesses are opened with workers operating on a shift basis.

“It is pretty slow right now, just as the restaurant sector took a little while and is still trying to recover,” he told Guardian Media, following a tour of the area around mid-day by CCIC executives.

Sookhai points out the spending power of consumers has been slashed and many consumers are being cautious with their monies, as school is set to open next month.

Popular clothing store, Rattans in Chaguanas, opened up for business like other retailers, on Monday August 16th. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

Dr Valmikki Arjoon, CCIC executive member, said some persons who have a steady income would have a pent-up demand for goods, while those who have lost income would show a lower demand for goods.

“Their recovery would be hinging on their ability to acquire their jobs or acquire new jobs, something that is not going to happen overnight,” Dr Arjoon explained.

He said a more aggressive drive is needed by the Government to push the SME loan facility now that the Government has agreed to fully back these loans.

“That is going to ease their [SME] financial stress and give them the power to rehire persons,” Dr Arjoon said.

He also recommends that Government look at Grant Funding instead of loans, and says various businesses chambers should start partnering with the IADB to re-educate businesses to change their business model, to take advantage of internet marketing.