By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Freeport entrepreneur yesterday branded exporting a “nightmare” due to costs that are more than quadruple product prices and delays encountered in getting sales to customers.
Tenisha Carey, owner/operator of Baha Gala, told Tribune Business: “International sales have slowed a bit only because I had to pause my FC (Fulfilment Centre) Amazon account, and also slowed down my website, because there’s an issue shipping from The Bahamas.
“The only option we have right now is USPS, which is through the postal service, and they can take anywhere from between six to eight weeks - especially from Grand Bahama. And especially for Grand Bahama, the Post Office has been closing at 1pm in the afternoon even before COVID-19, and then when COVID-19 hit everything shut down.”
Ms Carey continued: “Even before COVID-19 it was difficult because we had the same issue in Nassau, due to the mould in the old Post Office, and now we are having the same issue here in Freeport. In fact they are still renovating the Post Office and it has to close at 1pm daily.
“Everything was on go slow and it’s really hard. It’s a nightmare, and I seem to be the only person talking about it because I seem to have a volume when it comes to shipping. A lot of other businesses aren’t thinking that way as they are just dealing with customers in The Bahamas, which is okay, but it’s an issue for me.”
With the Post Office rendered inoperable for half the business day due to the pandemic, exporting small parcels out of The Bahamas can become extremely expensive. Ms Carey said: “To send my clients a $50 bracelet may cost an additional $200 if I send it with one of the other couriers.
“The other couriers like FedEX, DHL and so forth, they have an issue with shipping jewellery and, if they do ship it, with even a regular letter it can cost $45, much less anything a little over a pound.”
Ms Carey is now planning to open a warehouse in Florida, so she can ship to her North American and international clientele, who have grown significantly since the pandemic because “everyone is home now and all they are doing is ordering items online”.
She added: “Small businesses literally cannot always have issues shipping out from The Bahamas because of the postal service. While it’s inexpensive as it’s only $16, it takes a long time to get there. For example, I had a customer in Canada and it took them three months to get their order.
“This can’t help me and it’s not good for the clientele as well. Businesses can tell you it’s just horrible doing any form of shipment from The Bahamas. It just costs too much to ship to Florida, which is just 30 minutes away.”
Exports has never historically been a focus for many Bahamian businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with shipments that can range from a five-pound package to a 100-pound consignment, face significant barriers to exporting their goods.
Ms Carey added: “I think a lot of businesses in The Bahamas haven’t arrived as yet to the export market. They don’t realise the world is their oyster and we just can’t focus on how good our business is here in The Bahamas.
“We are fortunate to have the internet so we can sell via online. Social media is worth 80 percent of my business, so I need to be able to ship, and for the fact that I have to basically stop certain advertisements and shut down certain portals, that really hurt my business.
“I can tell you if I did have my stuff in the US during the lockdown I would have been a very happy camper right now because persons were just sitting down ordering stuff. That’s why Amazon made so much money.”