San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello is considering blocking off High Street for three days during the 2019 Christmas season. Although there were objections from some business people, a section the street was blocked off on Sunday and yesterday to allow vendors to sell and pedestrians to shop freely. Tents were erected on one side of the road for the vendors.
Unlike Sunday when there were very few shoppers and little traffic, High Street was abuzz with activity yesterday as last-minute shoppers crowded the stores and street searching for Christmas Eve bargains. There was a heavy police presence to ensure law and order and live entertainment was provided by the La Pastora Parang Group. Mayor Regrello was seen dancing as the band played on a stage in the middle of the street.
Street vendor Trevor Douglas, who was selling orchids, said” “I went in the forests in Toco and got these lovely orchids. I’m selling them for $20 and the ones with flowers are going for $100. I am happy I got a chance to sell on the streets to make a little extra dollar.”
However, Ronald Sukhbir, owner of Footloose Store, was not happy about High Street being blocked off.
“It is unfair for us as businesspeople to be paying taxes yet we cannot sell in our own stores, while the vendors get free rein on the streets,” he said.
“Some business people pay $50,000 and $60,000 in taxes, so many of us are very unhappy with them tenting in front of businesses. You cannot just block off High Street where our loading vans have to pass. Where they want us to go? This is not a good arrangement at all.”
Owner of Dress Code, Wendell Paul, complained: “We have seen a decline in sales. It could be because of the vendors on the streets but mainly sales have been very slow for the season even though we are offering 30 per cent off.”
Street vendor Kurwin Dick said while sales were good yesterday, shoppers were buying mostly cheap items.
“This is the best I have seen in recent times. People buying a lot of cheap stuff. I think they should do this every day. Let us sell on the street and make a little money. Everyone will be happy,” he said.
Sheriff Babwah, the owner of Splash, said people were hardly going into the stores.
He said: “We have seen a 60 per cent to 70 per cent decline in sales. We have been forced to cut staff. I don’t approve of this vending on High Street. Why should people be allowed to sell in tents in front of our stores? I have no problem with the vendors selling but it should be regulated.”
Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein who visited High Street yesterday applauded the mayor and the San Fernando City Corporation for the initiative.
“The vendors get a chance and a lot of people shopping,” he said.
Regrello said the initiative was a success and a win-win for everyone. He said last year the street was blocked off for a day but this year it was blocked off for two days and he is considering extending it to three days next year. He thanked all the stakeholders who assisted and supported the initiative.