Scores of Barbadians took to The City on Wednesday to take advantage of the deals offered by the second VAT-free holiday ahead of the Christmas weekend.
Businesses reported positive feedback from the public, with most seeing increased patronage as soon as operations began and stores opened.
At Bridgetown Duty Free on Broad Street, Operations Manager Stacey Wharton, said that the day had been “extremely busy” from the beginning, with crowds of people flooding the store to purchase items from as early as 8:30 a.m.
Wharton added that patrons were primarily focusing on purchasing items like perfumes and cosmetics. Additionally, the LAND [leather bag] section was another major point of interest for many consumers.
“I found that today has been extremely busy from the beginning, from 8:30 we’ve had crowds of people…We do have all of the resources we need to make things happen so today has been going pretty good so far… We’re also seeing lots of traffic on the top floor where you buy the kids’ books and the kids’ toys etc. because Christmas is all about the kids, so we’re getting traffic on the top floor and the ground floor in particular,” she said.
Managing Director at Abed’s, Eddy Abed, said the company had experienced some problems last year getting their IT systems in place for the VAT-free holiday. Having been through that experience helped the staff prepare for this year he said, however, it was still a process as they had to “wait until midnight to change over the computer systems” but he said he was not complaining.
“Last year proved that VAT free promotion is extremely popular with consumers and it is no different this year. We have found that it has been nonstop traffic ever since we’ve opened at both of our stores. We’re extremely thankful, we’re extremely appreciative for the opportunity to sell to our consumers with the reduction of VAT. It has been a particularly difficult year, I think most people know that.
“Inflation has caused prices to go up and more importantly, we’ve found that people like ourselves, the products that we sell which are not considered essentials are really at the bottom of the list after people consume their food, they pay electricity and utility bills, and they put gas in their car. So we’re thankful that we have the opportunity to sell products at a reduced rate and it gives us the chance to get rid of much needed inventory that we need to move at this time being,” he said.
Abed added that customers had been focusing on “larger ticket items” as it afforded them “more bang for their buck”.
“So we’ve found that more expensive items, our custom made curtains have been very popular today. Quilted bedspreads and so on have been very popular as well, but equally, I would say across the board we’ve found that people are very interested in home décor, so anything to do with the home we’ve found has been a fast seller today,” he said.
Managing Director of F.W. Woolworth, Martin Bryan reported that their store location in the City had an influx or people from 8 o’clock that morning. He added that the through traffic was remaining steady and they expected to see the increased patronage until the store closed.
“So the first hour, hour and a half, was busy then it calmed down a little bit, and then from 10:30, eleven, it picked back up again. And we’ve seen it very steady throughout the whole morning and into the afternoon. And we expect that it will continue until close,” he said.
Bryan added that most of the store’s inventory fell under the VAT-free category. He added that the process of converting their systems had to cover the removal of VAT on prices was smooth since they “had to do it last year so we knew what to do so we just did it this year”.
“It went quite smooth. Last night when we cashed up, we had a post-up of our sales and our IT then made sure that the VAT was removed on everything for today.”
Meanwhile, representative for the popular store ProSales, Faye Tudor, reported that while there was a lot of new clientele coming in, some customers were disgruntled by the amount of money they were being discounted.
“Customers do not understand what 17.5 per cent is. So some [customers were] getting agitated and saying that when they look at the bill they can’t understand the bill. They [cashiers] had to show them the bill and break it down. Some people still weren’t grasping it but as long as they see the change come back, and they got back more change than the actual bill it’s ok,” she said. (JK)