Retailer 'can't afford to take risks blindly' after 80% sales fall


Tribune Business Editor


A Bahamian retailer has warned he and others "cannot afford to take blind risks any more" due to the Government's handling of COVID-19, with curb-side restrictions slashing his sales by 80 percent.

Egan Kemp, president of Eunison Company, the Shoe Depot parent, told Tribune Business he and his staff would likely be out of work within months as it was "impossible to sustain curb-side indefinitely" - a sentiment shared by multiple other retailers.

Revealing that government-imposed limitations were playing havoc with his product ordering cycle, Mr Kemp also hit out at what he described as "inequity" with customers seemingly allowed to go into courier companies to pick up packages and imported shipments yet barred from entering local retail stores.

Arguing that this was providing a further incentive for Bahamians to purchase online from Amazon and overseas retailers, he backed Tara Morley, the Bahamas Federation of Retailers' co-president, for warning that curb-side restrictions mean 20,000 retail jobs "are on the line" as he urged more merchants to speak out.

"I've been trying to tell them all that if they don't speak up now, in three to four months they may not be able to speak up at all because they'll be out of business," Mr Kemp told this newspaper. "This curb-side is absolutely a losing proposition. There's no way a retailer like us can do this. When your sales are down 80 percent it's not sustainable.

"The Government doesn't understand what they're doing to us. I don't think they have a firm grasp of the impact they're having on everybody. They need to understand that clearly. To be quite honest, the 80 percent loss in sales is the reason I'm willing to fight.

"I'm basically going to bleed out slowly, and be out of business in a matter of months anyhow. There's no way we can survive on curb-side sales, no way, and many others are in the same position. There's no way to sustain curb-side indefinitely, and when the Government talks about loosening, tightening, loosening, tightening, you lose the ability to order next month's supply or two months' supply," he added.

"We've always taken risks, but now you're asking us to take risks blindly as business people and we cannot afford risk any more, not now, not in these circumstances." Mr Kemp said footwear, fashion and apparel retailers faced an extremely difficult challenge, as they were ordering product six months in advance, yet have no idea of the COVID-19 restrictions that await them then.

Mr Kemp spoke out after Ms Morley and the Federation, in a statement, hit back at the Prime Minister for voicing disappointment that so few Bahamian retailers have developed online e-commerce operations by saying this typically accounted for just 15 percent of their sales maximum.

"Even those with fully functioning, state-of-the-art websites still only see a minimal return - roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of overall sales - which is not enough to support their full operations," the Federation said. "Curbside business for the majority of our over 100 member businesses in the Federation represents a mere 1 percent to 15 percent of sales.

"Outside of retailers who cater to the tourism market, most of our members have found that while allowed to open they are at least able to cover their operating costs and keep staff members employed. However, after being either shut down or only permitted to operate online/curbside for five out of the last eight months, retailers were relying on the November 1 re-opening date to generate much needed income during the upcoming holiday season in order to avoid bankruptcy and further layoffs.

"Many retailers committed to orders based on the Prime Minister’s promise of ‘no more lockdowns’ in early September. However, in addition to the obligations faced by all businesses such as electricity bills, rent, payroll, Internet etc, they now find themselves with insufficient cash flow to clear these shipments meaning that they cannot even outfit their stores with the requisite inventory to sustain seasonal turnover. These measures are choking the local economy and exporting our Bahamian dollars abroad.”

The Federation added: "These restrictions and lockdowns disproportionately impact the blue collar workers of this nation that do not have the luxury of 'working from home' as other white collar positions in an office job may afford. The fact of the matter is over 20,000 jobs are on the line now. That’s 20,000 families.

"We ask that the policies being contemplated have a heart and a soul. We have remained stagnant for too long and, as we all know, COVID-19 will be around for well beyond 2020. It is the policies of this nation that will allow it to carry on or not. We need to work together to forge the path forward.”

The Federation added that there were numerous hurdles to establishing an e-commerce platform in The Bahamas, citing "the lack of a stable power source, no functioning postal service, unstable Internet connection, and unreliable phone service".

"Furthermore, our members have frequently cited many hurdles faced when trying to integrate a digital payment platform here given the challenges associated with e-commerce options at the local commercial backs," it continued.

"Local businesses who have the resources have worked tirelessly to launch an online platform since COVID first hit our shores back in March. However, even when they do, 15 percent of anyone’s business is still not enough to sustain current operating expenses and overhead. The math just does not add up if the Government is going to take the economic threat of lockdowns and curbside restrictions seriously."


GodSpeed 3 years, 6 months ago

First they'll bankrupt us all, then enslave us. All under the cover of Covid


JokeyJack 3 years, 6 months ago

The idea of full online sales in very very stupid. I hardly like to use that word - but "stupid" is the only thing that suites here. If everything is online, then where the salespeople going to work? If tons of people are out of work, then who is going to buy the stuff? You can't buy without money.

Whenever I go to Target or Publix etc in the USA, I never use the self checkout - even if I have to stand in line for an hour. Why? Because one of those cashiers who lost her job to an auto-checkout counter may have been hoping to take a vacation to the Bahamas when she got vacation and she may have bought something from my store. Now she cannot, because of all the STUPID people in the self checkout lines.


ohdrap4 3 years, 6 months ago

I have been ordering shoes online from a local seller for over a year now. Someone packages the shoes and prints a label and receipt to attach to the box.

When I come to the store , I open the box in front of a clerk and verify that the size and colour are correct. I can try the shoe at home and have a 30 day return policy.

This store also hires someone to answer emails and their website says to call so the store can check the stock if the website lists as out of stock.

There will be jobs. They are just different jobs.


DWW 3 years, 6 months ago

Bahamas Govt: its easy just go online.

Bahamas Central Bank: BWahahahaha

canadian banks shrug shoulders....


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