Business slowly returning to HWT plazas
The devastating economic decline during the month of April was still fresh in the minds of many business operators in the Constant Spring Road plaza strip - from 7th Avenue to Half-Way Tree Square - on Thursday. Most were unwilling to speak on the record, but admitted that they welcomed the relaxed business hours which had brought more people to their business places, with a noticeable uptick in the afternoons and on weekends.
The owner of one clothing store said business had slumped by 90 per cent during April, but was now edging back up towards the 50 per cent mark.
“There are customers, but less. I would say there is about a 50 per cent decline. April was worse when it first started, because everybody was panicky, but now I think people have started to come out again,” was how Heather Frampton, proprietor of Artique, in the Village Mall, summed up the situation.
The store markets itself as the place for T-shirts, silver jewellery, and art and craft items, but COVID-19 has seen a slump in sales of certain categories of items. “I have a wide array but, obviously, there are no tourists so the T-shirts are not selling. However, anything to do with smoking and vaping will sell, eyeglasses will sell, people buy plaques. The craft things are definitely not selling.”
The store used to be opened from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Frampton has cut her operating time to 11 a.m.-4 p.m. to coincide with when her customers come out.
A trickle of customers at Pizza Please! caught our attention, and CEO and Managing Director Pietro Giuliani was quite willing to share the story of how he maintained his staff of 12 persons, while grappling with depressed sales.
He, too, admitted that business during April was very slow with the early curfew hours, especially during the Easter weekend when he had anticipated an uptick in sales for Easter Monday.
“We stayed open because we really didn’t want to damage the business by customers seeing us closed, because it is not a good look for businesses. We didn’t want to send workers home, but April was a total loss. There weren’t many persons in the plaza, it was empty, two or three cars, and some of the shops were closed,” Giuliani recalled
“May was a little better. We are nowhere near where we were before March. We’re still fighting to get back there, but May was surely better than April; and April much worse than March.”
Meanwhile, Director of Operations and Development Anthony Clair explained that with sales dwindling, the pandemic sent them back to the drawing board, forcing the store to reconfigure its overall operations to see how they could best stay afloat.
“We looked at how best we could survive without laying off employees and to also meet the expectations of our clients. It really hit us hard, but we are trying to bounce back from the setback,” he disclosed.
“It required strategic scheduling in working with our employees to making sure that everyone was able to work specific hours to facilitate the flow of the business. It’s all hands on deck today, but it requires strategic scheduling to make sure we were within budget. So everybody works, but they work less hours. They would rather cooperate than to be out of a position; and Mr Giuliani believes in making sure that the personal touch is added to ever customer’s encounter here at Pizza Please!”