By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE retailer has estimated back-to-school sales have fallen by 75 percent compared with last year, however several people in the sector are hopeful business will pick up in the coming weeks.
James Wallace, owner/operator of Janaees Uniform Centre, told The Tribune that his business has seen an uptick of sales lately, but overall sales are down.
“Over the past week, we’ve seen a slight uptick in sales compared with what it was when there was no announcement on what the school programme would be,” he said.
“When we analyse and look at the sale for back to school, the actual sale is down 75 percent. We’re kind of disappointed but we’re not surprised because a lot of people aren’t working. We’ve been in a pandemic and people have been out of jobs for six months so there are some challenges. So as the business, we’re facing the very same challenges. We had laid off some staff members, but we’ve brought it all back since the announcement of back to school and we’re doing our best to cope because they too need to be supported.”
Mr Wallace acknowledged that the demand for school uniforms is not as great as it once was. Therefore, to help attract more consumers, the business owner said the company has implemented a back-to-school special.
“We have a special going on. If you buy four shirts, you get one free. We’ve removed the restrictions because pre-COVID, the restrictions you would have to buy four of the same size shirts and get one free.
“We’ve relaxed the restrictions because you can now buy four of any size to allow family members to come in and help each other.”
Pazia Bowe, Nassau Stationers general manager, told The Tribune that while sales for this year will never compare with earlier numbers, officials are grateful for the increased business activity they’ve seen in recent weeks.
“It’s not how it was in previous years or even last year but it’s good because children, especially the little ones are going into class,” she said.
“They’re not (all) doing virtual and they still need their books and stuff and September has been a good month not as good as previous Septembers, but it’s good and we’re still seeing the customers coming in and we’re hoping for October to even be better.”
In May, the government announced a VAT back-to-school holiday for the 2020 semester, an initiative meant to provide relief to Bahamian parents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, Mr Wallace said his store has seen many parents have been taking advantage of the initiative.
“We’ve seen people making sure that they are not paying VAT. They’re making sure of that because they’re reading their invoices,’ he said.
Public schools do not reopen across the country until October 5. Some schools will use virtual learning initially, while schools on several islands have been given the greenlight to resume in person classes, with some health measures in place.
Many private schools reopened last week, using virtual learning methods.
The delay in opening has led to sluggish sales for those selling school supplies and related products.
Asked to describe this year’s back to school season compared with last year’s, Mr Wallace said: “Like night and day. It’s a complete setback for the business. We look for back to school to carry the business throughout the year but it’s not there. We need to find ways to reinvent ourselves in terms of what we can do differently to get back to school (in) 2021 if that’s where we are.”