Some manufacturers reported a slow start to the second phase of T&T’s COVID-19 reopening programme yesterday but other sectors said they were extremely busy.
Advance Foam Limited CEO and chairman Travis Ali told Guardian Media the company, one of the largest mattress manufacturers and exporters in the Caribbean region, had been trying to fill export orders received during the lockdown period.
“We had export orders outstanding…we’re rushing right now to make these export orders. We have some hotel orders we are trying to rush into the system in the next week and a half and get some of the exports out of the way,” Ali said.
He said they had lost some regional market share due to the differences in COVID policies in the various countries. He said while they were unable to operate in T&T due to lockdown measures, some of the company’s longstanding customers in other countries with less stringent measures turned to their competitors. However, he estimated that exports make up 40 per cent of their sales.
“We’re hopeful that the retail sector in Trinidad opens very soon because opening a manufacturer and without their customers opened, you can imagine how that goes … running a factory with 40 to 45 per cent output is very inefficient and it becomes costly – almost to the point you lose money,” Ali said.
However, he was grateful for the opportunity to reopen and that Government had heeded calls to reopen the manufacturing sector.
Also on a slow yesterday was Roof Systems Limited in Arima. During a visit to the factory, production manager Joel Simmons told Guardian Media: “Things are a little slower than we normally have it on a daily basis but that doesn’t stop us from doing what we have to do.”
He also acknowledged that workers would need to make adjustments to their routines but said, “It’s a small price we have to pay moving forward after COVID.”
When Guardian Media visited both factories yesterday, protocols were in place to protect workers and customers from COVID-19, including sanitation stations, mandatory wearing of masks and temperature checks upon entry.
But for auto parts dealers, the demand for new and used parts was very high.
At Bamboo Boulevard in Valsayn yesterday, customers lined up trying to get the best deals on much-needed parts for their vehicles. One such customer said his car had been parked up for the last two months as there were no dealers open.
“It has been hard because I was waiting for the past two months at least, since the beginning of the lockdown,” he said.
Wearing a face mask in the sweltering 34.1-degree heat, he tried in vain to get his car to start. A mechanic he brought along with him sweated profusely as he removed and replaced a worn out part from the engine.
Bick’s Auto Parts manager Shaun Mohammed said there was a large, continuous influx of customers at their ten outlets.
“The demand for parts has been extremely, extremely high. I don’t think we had enough parts to satisfy some customers today because of the amount of customers we had this morning,” Mohammed said.
He said during the lockdown about 20 containers of parts ordered from abroad landed in Trinidad, so employees were busy sorting them.
Mohammed said the company was doing its best to encourage customers to wear their face masks and use hand washing stations before entering outlets. He said because of the high demand, Bick’s was able to keep all its staff.
However, several storefronts away, the owner of Mohammed’s Foreign Used Parts said the day was off to a slow start. There was no rush at his business and they tried their best to ensure safety protocols were kept. However, coupled with the overhead expenses needed to be met, even during the lockdown, he said he was struggling to get back on his feet.
Laundromats were also allowed to reopen yesterday.
But at DJ’s Self Serve Coin Laundry on the Eastern Main Road in Laventille, customers were few and far apart.
“It’s been very slow so far. We have measures in place for social distancing where we don’t want more than five people in at once but it’s off to a very slow start,” a director who identified himself only as Carlton said.
He said during the restrictions, the company turned off its electricity and water supplies to keep overhead costs low. He said other overhead costs were still accumulating though and staff was also being paid.
The second phase of the reopening was moved up from next week by the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last Saturday. However, the Prime Minister has iterated that the phases put forth in the recovery plan are subject to change and can be moved up if the results of community tests are favourable.