Even before the government mandated all nonessential businesses close in an effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, small business owners said they were already feeling their bottom lines fall.
Joanne Seymour, the owner of Classy Kids Boutique on Jerome Avenue, said in the days leading up to the prime minister’s announcement, she had already started having to close her doors early because of the slowdown in customers.
“It [was] quiet, but I guess after it all settles down and we know what’s going on, maybe we can look forward to business picking up,” she told Guardian Business.
But, while the government has allocated $20 million to provide short term loans to micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses impacted by the viral outbreak, Seymour said she won’t bother applying.
“No, I wouldn’t bother with a loan, I would just wait it out,” she said.
“The good thing is we don’t sell anything that’s perishable and people would always need stuff.
“We sell stuff for christenings. We do a lot of funerals, a lot of weddings. We have occasions where people always need something, so that’s what we’re hanging onto, now that the things that are necessary are keeping us afloat. It’s just like when the hurricane came along, clothes wasn’t their focus, but afterwards it picks up.”
On the other hand, Amanda Meyers – manager and part-owner of Fox Hill Nursery on Bernard Road, said she would take advantage of that opportunity if only to keep paying her seven employees.
“Yes, we have emergency stores but how long is this going to go on for, none of us know,” she said.
“This is the big scary monster hanging over all of us.”
Asked if she would be willing to apply for the loan facility, she said, “If worse comes to worse and that is something we have to do then, yeah, we’ll do it.
“Yes, I would do it if it comes to that.
“Again, we have staff to pay. Most of our staff live in the area. We all know them and we don’t want to see them on hard times either. We already are feeling a financial slowdown, drastic slowdown. We have seven guys that work here. We have a business where we have plants. We cannot walk away from it. We cannot shut the doors and walk away. We have to water [and] we have to maintain them.”
Sabrina Wells is the owner of Lush-S Beauty and Cosmetics on Alexandra Street. She made the decision to close her doors well before the prime minister even introduced the mandate, based on concern regarding the spread of the virus to her family and customers.
Even then, she said, she was concerned about her bottom line, even though she only employs herself and one other person.
“It will impact my livelihood a lot,” she said.
“I have put a lot into my business and what is happening in the world will cause business to drop because everyone is losing money.
“I will still be expected to pay the cable and BPL bill and shop rent, I’m sure. All of that means that I will have to cut back on a lot of things like gym membership, nails, hair, eating out, etc. I, now, will have to try and make up for money lost while I was closed.”