By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BUILDING material and supplies companies say sales continue to remain relatively flat, with one executive claiming that Bahamians are being completely shut off from big projects.
Chris Lleida, chief executive of Premier Importers, told Tribune Business that while sales had shown a steady improvement in the last six months, it was certainly not due to any of the large investment projects currently on stream.
Mr Lleida said: "There may be a slight upward trend in sales, but I don't think we are getting a fair share of the construction supply market.
"Companies come here, get contracts and purchase their supplies directly from the US. We cater to a lot of local contractors and do persons who just want to do a project themselves.
"We are constantly competing with the contractors who want to got to the US and buy direct. We are the ones who stock our businesses for customers to be able to get what they need on a timely basis. Some of these projects that come along, they don't have to do that. I understand that everyone is in the business to make a profit and protect their own interests, that's fine, but many Bahamian companies aren't even given the opportunity to participate.
"Every single project that has come along in the last 10 years has had a skewed playing field. They don't even entertain Bahamian companies to supply them with their materials. It's a pretty closed shop. It's not good for the economy. That's part of the challenge, but business has been steadily improving over the last six months, yet it's no thanks to these kinds of projects. I know there's a trickle down effect, but I would rather not have to wait for it to trickle down."
Raymond Collins, Tops Lumber and Plumbing Supplies' general manager, said the company was holding its own with no dramatic increases in sales.
"We have been holding our own but there hasn't been any drastic increase in sales. We have our slow days, and we have days when business picks up. The lumber side is doing well as far as the customer base is going, but the store side is still struggling a little bit. People still don't realise we have a store in the same building, but it's coming together," Mr Collins said.
Charles Albury, manager of JBR Building Supplies, told Tribune Business that business was relatively flat.
Mr Albury said: "Things are pretty flat. We get a little pick up in business here and there, but there is slow movement. We get some of the big projects to a degree, but most of the projects, like Baha Mar for example, are covered under the Hotel Encouragement Act and they get duty-free exemptions to bring in their materials. We can't compete with that. We are happy to get the crumbs from the table, pay our bills and keep our staff."