Bahamian retailers yesterday said this second two-week lockdown implemented by the competent authority will be the final nail in the coffin for many of them.
The Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR) said it is disappointed that after merchants invested heavily to enforce social distancing protocols and online selling platforms, many businesses were still forced to close their doors.
“The second lockdown will unfortunately fair far worse than the first as companies have already drained any reserves they may have had during the first wave of lockdowns. Tragically, this will be the nail in the coffin for many Bahamian retailers and the jobs that go with them,” the BFR said in a press statement in response to Guardian Business inquiries.
“In this unprecedented COVID-19 era, we are committed as the Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR) to working with the government to educate Bahamians on how to follow the safety protocols that will enable Bahamians to shop locally in a safe environment.
“We enforce social distancing protocols, sanitizing, the wearing of masks and capacity constraints as outlined by the competent authority. Although curbside and delivery did not work for all of our members, many retailers have been working tirelessly and invested heavily to refine contactless delivery of goods through either curbside or delivery options as well as investments in online shopping. We are disappointed to see that yet again these options are not being permitted for Bahamian businesses.”
As of December 2019, the wholesale and retail sector was the second largest private sector employer in The Bahamas, behind the hotel sector, employing over 22,000 persons.
The BFR said its executive membership has been collaborating with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and intends to reach out to the government directly to see how a solution can be reached that serves both the business community and addresses the safety concerns now faced by the nation.
“The sad reality of the situation is that if this keeps up, with no business assistance or opportunity to keep doors open, retailers will go out of business along with the jobs that they provide. We need find creative ways to support the businesses that are here today and secure those jobs for the future,” the retailers said.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon and we need to forge ahead with a more sustainable path. We encourage all Bahamians to make a point of shopping locally and by doing so supporting the recovery of The Bahamas.”
All businesses deemed non-essential were forced to close their doors in March following the proclamation of a national state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government gradually reopened the country in early May, allowing most businesses to provide curbside pickup and delivery, then in-store operations within the mandated social distancing protocols.
However, following a spike in COVID-19 cases after the reopening of the country’s borders last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, the competent authority, mandated a nationwide lockdown for two weeks and the closure of all non-essential businesses.
The lockdown is scheduled to end on August 19, but may be extended.