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Charlotte Street vendors, business owners lament: Christmas sales the worst ever

Monday, December 23, 2013
A vendor sets up shop in her wagon to sell perfumes on Queen Street, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

The general consensus of Charlotte Street business owners and street vendors is that Christmas sales so far have been “terrible.” Even though the street was bustling with would-be shoppers yesterday morning, many sellers told a news team from the T&T Guardian that people were not buying, and it was the worst year they had ever experienced.



“Last year was better. Last year all now so, more buyers, more sales...People coming out to shop but like in the stores,” said Alric Murray, owner of LK Haberdashery, who sold mats, slippers and disposable baking pans on multiple tables on the pavement. He hoped for a “Christmas Eve rush” tomorrow. “But right now, I not impressed. I not even getting the Christmas feeling,” Murray said, explaining he has been selling on Charlotte Street for more than 15 years.


He guessed that possibly people did not have the money to shop as they used to in previous years. “I not sad, but I’m a little disappointed because Christmas not what it used to be,” he said. However, bigger stores within the buildings were not spared either, as they too were struggling to get sales on the weekend before Christmas. Accessory manager Maggie Joseph, 73, said she has worked on Charlotte Street since she was 17, and this was the worst year in sales she had ever experienced.


As she chained handbags along the walls of the store to prevent theft, she repeatedly described the Christmas season as “terrible.” “I working in here since I was 17 years, and this is the only Christmas I complain about. Terrible, terrible.” Similar to Murray she expected a bit of a rush tomorrow for Christmas Eve. “It will pick up a little bit. I know that. But it still not how it used to be.” A street vendor who identified himself as “Donald the mat man” was confident sales would pick up before Wednesday.


“People now starting to come out. You won’t be able to walk through the streets, watch and see,” he said. Another haberdasher selling children’s clothes curtain rods and mats said it was “still slow” even though it was so close to Christmas, especially compared to last year. “I shocked to know Christmas is Wednesday and Town dead,” said Kathy Charles, adding it was her worst year in sales since she began selling in 2003. Another vendor a few spots down was less reserved about how poorly the season was coming along.


Miss John-John, a 19-year Charlotte Street veteran said: “Put that! Sales bad, bad, bad, that’s all.” “It’s the worst I have ever seen. I say so, live and direct.” She was less optimistic about a possible surge in sales for Christmas Eve. “Tuesday it not picking up at all, trust me. That’s it.” A clothes and shoe store owner who identified herself as Mary Johnson sat on a chair in front of her empty store, echoing what most other vendors said: “It’s the worst. The shopping not up to mark.”


“Usually all now would be busy. You don’t ever sit down. You busy, busy, busy, your store pack, pack, pack,” Johnson said. A man standing at the entrance of Nickel and Dime Variety Store begged and waved at passers-by to come in and look around, with very little success. “Come on! Come inside!” he yelled hopefully. Some sellers said the money earned might just be enough for them to break even. “I feel we might just make money to pay bills. And nothing extra to keep for yourself,” Murray said.


He said he would know whether his Christmas would be merry after tomorrow’s sales. Joseph, on the other hand, was doubtful they would make back money from their sales. Johnson was worried about the rent she had to pay at the end of the month. Another clothes store owner who did not want to be identified, said it was likely she would have to let go some of her staff because she would not be making enough money to pay their salaries.


“We not making money. Everyday you have to fight for the sales. This is Sunday before Christmas and look at my store, all these people here is my workers. How we going to pay bills? It’s terrible. This could break my business.” Like almost everyone else, she was “hoping and praying” for a miracle tomorrow.


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