Two retail clothing chain stores said the second lockdown implemented earlier this week has pushed them from being in an already challenged position to the end of their ropes.
Outlining the impact of the first national lockdown on his business, Adam Treco, managing director of Fine Threads, said if the economy doesn’t open completely, allowing for in-store shopping at the end of this two-week lockdown, his store’s doors will remain closed until it does.
“When we reopened in May for curbside, we made about two to three days’ worth of sales for the entire month. So basically we were just using that as a way to tell our staff we love them because there was no legitimate reason to be open in May. Then with June, that’s when things swung up. We were at 65 percent of normal numbers, which was allowing us to pay our vendors back in the United States while covering our bills. We didn’t bring any of our part-timers back but we were making it; we were just playing a bit of hopscotch with bills but we were making it,” he told Guardian Business yesterday.
“And then from the moment restaurants were closed again completely and from the moment funerals were essentially canceled – saying five people means essentially canceled – our sales numbers dropped from 65 to somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of normal numbers overnight.
“Because if there are no restaurants that means there are no date nights and if there are no funerals, which is our biggest event bread and butter, basically that means there’s no reason to buy a black suit and white shirt. If the decision is made to phase the reopening after two weeks and with curbside only again, then I don’t think we’re opening again until walk-ins are allowed, because it’s not worth it.”
Looking forward, he believes because of the group structure of his company it can possibly survive beyond this lockdown period, but he said he fears for other businesses that won’t.
“We have more options because we’re in a family of companies, more than someone who is just a standalone,” he said.
“But that’s the only reason. There’s no value to being open and there’s not enough cash in the war chest to just be paying staff out of the goodness of our hearts anymore. That’s just literally impossible at this point; we can’t do May all over again.”
Kelly Huber, who is the marketing manager for Rubins, said this second lockdown is “killing us”.
“Right now, it’s a hope and a prayer to get through this, because the first one was really challenging and we made our adjustments and budget cuts and whatnot, but now we’re literally at the end of our ropes. And I’m sure most other businesses can relate. There’s just no options out there anymore,” she said.
“We’re following all the protocols as far as sanitization and only allowing a certain amount of people into the store at a time, wearing masks and face shields. COVID-19 is never going to go away, we just have to change our habits and our way of socializing on a daily basis and ride this out. I mean how many lockdowns are we going to have? Lockdown, open back up, lockdown, open back up – this is just a revolving door.”
Huber said this second lockdown is particularly frustrating after seeing a pickup in business in recent weeks. She said she’s hopeful the prime minister will relax his orders soon.
“If he does reverse the order that would be wonderful, because Bahamians aren’t really traveling to shop; they’re supporting local businesses more than ever right now, so this is a great time for small business owners like us. But you do a lockdown, no one can do anything,” she said.
“I speak directly with the chamber of commerce and we’ve collaborated on many articles to the government and prime minister about the concerns we’re having. And this is from the first lockdown and NIB (the National Insurance Board) not paying on time and our staff are starving and the government is not doing anything. They’ve basically completely ignored our requests and our concerns.”
Weighing in on the overall impact of the lockdowns on the economy, Treco questioned whether the current number of deaths from COVID-19 justify the loss of thousands of jobs.
“Is one death for every thousand people out of a job worth it? That’s the first question I have to raise, because we can say lives matter, but nobody is living right now,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we’re a tourist-based economy and we’ve already shown tourists we’re willing to close the beaches at the drop of a hat, even though they’re already here; we’re willing to cancel flights at the drop of a hat even though people already booked. What gives tourists any comfort in November, December, January and February that if they buy the ticket and plan the trip that they’re not going to get some 48-hour notice that everything is canceled again?
“Because he’s willing to pull the shutdown lever very quickly and very often, there’s no reason for tourists to bother coming here to deal with this. We’re scaring away our lifeline.”
Following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis implemented more stringent travel restrictions and a two-week national lockdown during which “non-essential” businesses must cease operations.