0

FINAL NAIL IN RETAIL COFFIN: Retail Association warns lockdown may be last straw for many traders

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

and YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian retailers yesterday warned that the latest COVID-19 lockdown will be "the nail in the coffin" for multiple companies and jobs in a sector that employs more than 22,000 persons.

The Bahamas Federation of Retailers, in a statement sent to Tribune Business, said it was “disappointed” that the Government did not consider allowing stores able to provide delivery or contactless services to remain open before imposing a blanket two-week shutdown on all employers deemed "non-essential".

"After the hotel sector, which is currently non-operational due to the restraints on tourism under COVID-19, the wholesale and retail sector is the largest private sector employer in our nation employing over 22,000 persons as of December 2019," the Federation blasted.

"The second lockdown will unfortunately fair far worse than the first as companies have already drained any reserves they may have had during the first wave of lockdowns. Tragically, this will be the nail in the coffin for many Bahamian retailers and the jobs that go with them.”

It added: “In this unprecedented COVID-19 era we are committed, as the Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR), to working with the Government to educate Bahamians on how to follow the safety protocols that will enable Bahamians to shop locally in a safe environment.

"We enforce social distancing protocols, sanitising, the wearing of masks and capacity constraints as outlined by the Competent Authority (Prime Minister's Office). Although curbside and delivery did not work for all of our members, many retailers have been working tirelessly and invested heavily to refine contactless delivery of goods through either curbside or delivery options as well as investments in online shopping.

“We are disappointed to see that yet again these options are not being permitted for Bahamian businesses," the Federation continued. "We have been collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce and will be reaching out to the Government directly to see how we can come up with a solution that serves both the business community and addresses the safety concerns now faced by the nation.

"The sad reality of the situation is that if this keeps up, with no business assistance or opportunity to keep doors open, retailers will go out of business along with the jobs that they provide. We need to find creative ways to support the businesses that are here today and secure those jobs for the future.

"Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon and we need to forge ahead with a more sustainable path. We encourage all Bahamians to make a point of shopping locally and, by doing so, supporting the recovery of The Bahamas.”

The Federation's sentiments and position were yesterday echoed by individual retailers. Egan Kemp, president of Eunison Company, the Shoe Depot parent, told Tribune Business he remained wedded to his belief that The Bahamas is "committing economic suicide" through these lockdowns and thus making its economic recovery process even longer and harder.

"There's not too many words to put to all this," he said of the current two-week national lockdown. "It's unbelievable, unbelievable. Unfortunately, unlike the politicians and government workers we will no longer receive an income.

"Our businesses have ground to a screeching halt yet again, and I still continue to say that we, along with many other countries, are committing economic suicide, which is difficult if not impossible to recover from..... To have to shut down our complete economic food chain is absolute economic suicide.

"I still hold to that, and unfortunately the Government, its workers and the citizens of this lovely Bahamaland will reap the consequences of our inability to be more brave and conscious about how we conduct ourselves in such circumstances rather than retreating each time the snake in the hole rears its head."

Mr Kemp warned that with the COVID-19 threat unlikely to be eliminated, either by a vaccine or therapeutic treatments, any time soon, the Bahamian people and economy must learn to live with the virus while simultaneously minimising the risk of infection and so-called 'community spread'.

"I take a risk every day flying, driving and living, and I believe the risks we take every day to conduct business is worth far more than fear mongering and the awful situation the Government has put us in by wiping us out," he told Tribune Business.

Questioning whether "science" was behind the Government's rationale for effectively shutting The Bahamas down for four days per week, Mr Kemp said he had closed his Shoe Depot outlets early on Tuesday to allow staff and their families sufficient time to prepare for the new lockdown.

Criticising the Government for giving too little warning of its intentions, he added: "I'm trying to keep my people employed and myself employed. But if this continues I won't be around and many others won't.

"What I don't understand is where the Government expects to gain tax revenues if there's no business left; if they wipe us all out. How are we supposed to all live? I don't get it. There's risks, and unfortunately we just have to move boldly forward with the risks of life.

"If they wipe us out they will have no tax revenue. Government workers will wake up one day and without a pay cheque, pension and benefits because the Government is flat broke and there are no more taxpayers because the Government pushed us all out of business for our own safety."

Andrew Wilson, the Quality Business Centre (QBC) and Fashion on Broadway principal, told Tribune Business that he, too, felt the Government should have opted for "an alternative to a complete shutdown" given the increased economic and employment damage the latest two-week lockdown threatens to inflict.

Confirming that he faces "two weeks without income", as none of his retail formats or outlets are able to offer curbside or delivery services, Mr Wilson said: "I have absolutely no doubt we will ride it out, whether this lasts for two weeks or a month. It is an interruption, no question about it.

"Again, I suspect the authorities have access to information that I don't have access to, but we would have hoped there ought to have been an alternative to a complete lockdown. Perhaps weekends only, or two to three days, rather than there not to be a choice between COVID-19 or a shutdown, which it seems to have become for large numbers of people.

"I think the Government needs to find that balance and they haven't found that yet. I think they're responding to the crisis they see in front of them, but I don't think their response was as measured."

Mr Wilson urged the Government to focus on protecting those especially vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes, plus activities such as parties and large social gatherings suspected of fuelling the virus' spread.

Still, expressing full optimism that all his businesses and staff will be back post-lockdown, the entrepreneur told Tribune Business: "I don't have a 'plan B' for survival. My staff will be furloughed for the two weeks, but I'm happy to say that immediately after the first lockdown I was able to bring them all back on full pay. I'm sure after this period ends I'll be able to bring all my staff back on full pay."

Comments

observer2 2 years ago

Public service employees will be paid.

The government is far from broke. With $2 billion in foreign reserves, $500 million in new loans coming in from the IMF and other multilateral organization, the issuance of tens of millions local Bahamian dollar bonds at rates significantly higher and attractive than fixed deposits to monied locals, the commercial banks awash in liquidity as there is nothing to invest in, the blocking of Bahamians moving funds out of the Bahamas for capital account purchases, the freezing of Canadian banks taking profits out of the country by dividend.

My argument is that the government is very wealthy.

Actually they are crying poor mout while their paychecks are wired to their bank accounts, their cars are filled with free gas and their entertainment allowances continue while entertainment has ceased.

They just don’t care about the working class. In fact I think they feel the middle class is ungrateful for all they are doing for them. They also know, no one will vote for their visionless leadership in 2022.

0

moncurcool 2 years ago

Sadly your argument doesn't hold water. A loan does not make you wealthy, you have to pay it back. Foreign reserves are not owned by the government, they cannot just walk into the Central Bank and take the money. And every bond is a loan that they have to pay back. All the lions show that the government is broke and has to borrow money to survive.

Additionally, the civl service which makes up the government is made up of middle class people I would think that paying them each month means the executive branch of the government cares about the working class.

The sad truth though is that this vision less leadership is better than what Philip Davis offers. Better for the FNM to dump Minnis and let Turnquest lead.

3

tribanon 2 years ago

It's all too obvious that your allegiance to the FNM party and Minnis is much more important to you than the well being of our country and its people. Your belief that all is well as long as the civil service and other government employees continue to receive their full pay and benefits belies the level of your ignorance due to your blind undying loyalty to the FNM party and Minnis. In addition to your ignorance, I also suspect you're the quintessential pseudo-intellect. In fact, I believe you're quite capable of even deluding yourself with your own hogwash intended to deceive others.

Anyone with an iota of common sense knows government will soon exhaust its ability to increase our country's foreign currency denominated borrowings, and that without some semblance of a sustainable private business sector, we will then have no economy, period. The government can of course continue printing and paying to the civil work force all of the Bahamian dollars their little heart may desire, but that only because at that point our nation's local currency will have become usable as worthless toilet paper.

2

observer2 2 years ago

Moncurcool, thank you for the counter argument and your perspective on the issues I raised.This is the type of 2 sided/views blogs that are constructive.

0

joeblow 2 years ago

@moncurcool... Agree with all points, including dumping Minnis!

In addition, when you and when factor in increasing layoffs reducing NIB contributions and increasing NIB workers benefits, WHILE reducing VAT collections from reduced sales from closed businesses, the government is basically screwing itself. In addition the water producer Consolidated Water cannot get government to make significant payments on bills already owed. Makes one wonder just how long this will go on before the essential service of potable water may become a problem!

0

tribanon 2 years ago

You really believe he wants to dump Minnis? LOL

0

Wisdom4 2 years ago

This second lock down will definitely hurt working class families and local business. Sadly, to say this virus is NOT going anywhere. Why can people understand that? The only solution is to continue to practice social distance, wearing mask and healthy hygiene to prevent spreading of the virus.

People already struggling to make ends meet. Other nations, our NOT having outrageous lock down. Instead they realize this virus is NOT going away. People will need to cope with this virus and take extra precaution. People have to take responsibility for their own health and community safety.

The Bahamians our living in Free Democracy and the government need to have faith in its people.

Meanwhile, the economy, local business and working-class families need to go back to routine living. 22,000 people and more unemployed, jobs are being cut. Continuous lock down will increase mental health issues.

How is these lock downs and restriction with limited condition helping the economy and working-class families?

2

tell_it_like_it_is 2 years ago

I agree with you. Before this silly 24-hour curfew... they had the 10 pm curfew (before the borders were open to the US). When the 10pm curfew was in place... the virus was not spreading rapidly, even with limited testing. All businesses were allowed to open until 8 pm. and the virus was under control.

So they know what caused the dramatic increase... so stop only that and see the impact. Why you have to stop commercial travel... and all these other things... when it was only commercial travel to and from the USA that caused this??? SMH

1

truetruebahamian 2 years ago

Downtown property taxes will have to be forgiven/cancelled as there has been no business - only expenses that have drained the reserves of the property owners. Businesses there are either directly or indirectly dependent upon the tourism factor and have been dead for what will soon be half of the year. Insurances the same too. Government will have to tax itself as that is the only functioning money making entity.

1

tribanon 2 years ago

Most of you posting here fail to appreciate that tyrannical dictators seldom have to worry about sources of tax revenue. From their standpoint, everything in the country already belongs to them. This means they can just take (seize) whatever private property they want whenever they want.

Once a country's Constitution has been shredded and the people have no civil rights and liberties, private property becomes a thing of the past. This is where Minnis is headed with the help of the Communist Chinese Party (CCP). He has great power crazed ambitions aimed at setting himself up as the supreme ruler of the Bahamas for the rest of his life.

Minnis simply couldn't care any less about the private business sector and sources of tax revenue as long as the CCP has his back. And the CCP of course relish the idea of having their very own puppet dictator of a small nation that lies so close to the US.

2

ThisIsOurs 2 years ago

"Most of you posting here fail to appreciate that tyrannical dictators seldom have to worry about sources of tax revenue. From their standpoint, everything in the country already belongs to them. This means they can just take (seize) whatever private property they want whenever they want"

I didn't know you was up on your scriptures! Listen to this:

"And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 10 And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will TAKE your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13 And he will TAKE your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 And he will TAKE your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 And he will TAKE the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 And he will TAKE your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.17 He will TAKE the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. 18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.

0

ThisIsOurs 2 years ago

Actually when they announced the emergency orders the language allowed them to literally sieze anything, there was no clarification in the orders on what type of goods or property they could seize or for what reasons. So they could sieze your BMW because they want a nice car and it would be legal.. at least that was my interpretation. Whether the order was lawful is for the lawyers to determine

0

tribanon 2 years ago

Sadly, it's probably only now just beginning to occur to most members of The Bahamas Federation of Retailers that Minnis is very deliberately going about putting their businesses out of business. Tyrannical dictators have always been inclined to target for destruction that which they know they will have some difficulty in controlling, e.g. many of our nation's locally owned private businesses. Meanwhile the Minnis controlled public sector is pampered no matter what, with absolutely no serious belt-tightening or significantly meaningful austerity measures of kind implemented to address our grossly over-bloated and very costly civil workforce.

0

happyfly 2 years ago

I got a call from Commonwealth Bank just last week demanding to know why my mortgage was one month behind. A mortgage that carries an 8 3/4 % interest rate that has not budged whilst everyone else's interest rates in the world is getting a break. Real Property Tax going up. Insurance premiums going up. A healthy. hard-working man, denied the right to work for most of the year and it's supposed to be business as usual for everyone I owe money to. Makes you wonder why anyone would want to play this 'game' any more ?

1

TalRussell 2 years ago

Mr. Theodore Minnis and the 34 House elected red coat MP's who prop him up to do the stuff he does has givin' a whole new meaning to a hand-to-mouth existence, something many, many thousands of The Colony's Comrade PopoulacesOrdinary are for the very first time in their working adult lives coming face-to-face with the realisation of what societies worst-paid have to face every single worst-paid hand-to-mouth existence without medical or other benefits, day of their lives. They are forced to face it every single hour of their day. They never get a vacation away from knowing what it's like to being unappreciated, over shunned, much underpaid, and one hundred percent deductible under benefited. Nod Once for Yeah, Twice for No?

0

Westgal 2 years ago

Its a good thing that the retail businesses have been able to hold on this long. In the tourism sector we have had NO INCOME since March and neither has the government been able to collect any VAT tax from the Tourism industry. Instead of locking us healthy people down, which is 99% of the population, why hasn't the government invested in more ICU beds to plan for an increase in cases. This virus is here to stay. Why don't we hear, how Covid-19 can be treated if you catch it? What medicine can we take, and where we can get it? I have read in several articles that the HDCQ is indeed a successful drug and is cheap. I believe the reason why the authorities speak against it, is because the big pharma can't make money off of it and because President Trump took it as a preventative measure. A vaccine may also help some, but that wont be until mid of next year. So do we just shut down everything and die, until they come up with a vaccine? I wont take it in any case, but that can be discussed at another time. We have to focus on ALL the people that recover, instead of focusing on new cases and the deaths. There have only been 14 deaths. We have to remember that we all have to die at some point. If God chooses for me to die from Covid, then so be it. I will accept that as my lot. Why should the other 99% of the population suffer economic suicide?!?!
When the world suffered from the black plage a hundred years ago, and a lot of people died, they didn't shut down the economy then. But this is much bigger than Covid. This is about controlling us and the entire world and it comes from the Chinese Communist Party. They already own us, with all their investments in this country! We can never afford to pay them back. There is no such thing as a free lunch. And I can imagine, that they are the ones offering us money, to bail us out. But I will leave it right here, as I have no proof.

0

joeblow 2 years ago

... actually a bigger issue as I have posted before is that there are people who have already had the virus, have antibodies to it and are immune to it so far. With over 17 million cases of infection in the world there are no clear, confirmed cases of people getting the infection twice, which means people who are unlikely to become infected again are being locked down and are being forced to be unproductive. People are being forced not to be able to make a living. It is insane!

0

Economist 2 years ago

It is clear that no thought went into this latest lockdown. Grade "D" thinking prevails and with it people will lose their jobs and their businesses.

Where is the financial relief as other countries have done. If they gave businesses mony like they have in Europe, Canada and the US some mmay have a chance to survive and keep employees on.

Lockdown & Financial Relief go hand in hand. Can't do one without the other.

1

Economist 2 years ago

It is clear that no thought went into this latest lockdown. Grade "D" thinking prevails and with it people will lose their jobs and their businesses.

Where is the financial relief as other countries have done. If they gave businesses mony like they have in Europe, Canada and the US some mmay have a chance to survive and keep employees on.

Lockdown & Financial Relief go hand in hand. Can't do one without the other.

0

tribanon 2 years ago

All of our country's limited (if any) financial resources and additional hard currency borrowings are going towards keeping our grossly over-bloated civil service ring-fenced and insulated from the effects of the greatest financial crisis to hit the Bahamas in modern times.

Meanwhile private sector businesses and their employees have been left to flounder under orders made by our 'most incompetent' authority with no real financial relief of any kind whatsoever. The orders and lockdowns have made the conduct of business on a viable basis impossible for most types of private sector businesses.

The outright Covid-19 financial relief discrimination shown by the Minnis led government in favouring the public sector over the private sector is both profoundly stark and alarming, and most certainly unconstitutional. When Bahamian voters cast their votes in the national election held in May 2017, they elected a government to represent the interests of all of the Bahamian people and not just those employed in our civil service workforce, which includes our elected representatives themselves as well as our entire judiciary. And therein lies the rub of outright political discrimination of the worst possible kind with apparently no checks or balances in place to prevent it. A truly sad state of affairs for the many Bahamians wholly dependent on the private sector for their livelihoods.

2

longgone 2 years ago

Bring back Perry and Brave---They'll make things right!

0

tribanon 2 years ago

Repost:

You sound as if you've bought into the foolish myth that it can only be a choice at the polls between the 'good for nothing' leaders of the two 'good for nothing' political parties, i.e. either Davis/PLP or Minnis/FNM. Christie and Ingraham milked that foolish myth with the voters for all it was worth, and look where that got us. Are you really now going to let Davis and Minnis do the same thing?

0

Sign in to comment