The COVID-19 virus has not infected the Christmas spirit.
Some of the main Christmas shopping sites in this country have recorded no significant difference in the size of crowds that they have welcomed this year when compared to last year, although this year was dominated by a deadly pandemic.
President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud said business owners have been seeing customers returning to the capital city.
“The downtown city centre has reported generally satisfaction with the recovery of the business operations,” Aboud told Guardian Media.
“The most often repeated remarks are that the customers have been returning slowly and that those shops which are practising good sanitation and hygiene at the entrances to their businesses, including the taking of temperatures, are being patronised by customers who feel safe in their establishment,” he said.
Aboud said increased police presence has also helped customers feel safer.
“A note has also been made by several of the downtown merchants that the City Police and the Central Police seem to be more visible than they were in years gone by and that has given some assurance to the shoppers in and around downtown Port-of-Spain because of interaction with the ministry of national security and the commissioner of police certain initiatives were taken to protect shoppers including female shoppers,” he said.
“Those initiatives seem to have had some positive impact because the number of reported incidents has declined substantially from September and October,” Aboud said.
He said while the business owners recognise that overall they have seen a decrease in income throughout the year they are grateful for what is taking place now.
“We recognise that we still have a lot to be grateful for and therefore there are not that many complaints being received by us from members of our association with respect to how Christmas is turning out as we head into the last lap before next week,” Aboud said.
“I don’t want to give the impression that Port-of-Spain is booming but I do want to say that the city is accessible, the city is safer than it was last year, parking arrangements are better than last year vis a vis Udecott’s operation of the Salvatori lot,” he said.
Aboud said the central government in collaboration with the Port-of-Spain mayor’s office has also started beautification works on the Brian Lara Promenade.
“And a combination of all of those factors which include the visibility of the City police and the Central police that news seems to have spread throughout the public and while we are not booming we are recovering,” Aboud said.
“I think recovery is the general tone of my comment to you and I think the other aspect of my tone of comment is gratefulness for what is happening and the fact we have a lot to be grateful for compared to what could have been. It could have been a much more difficult year end,” Aboud said.
This country’s second city, San Fernando, has also been feeling the Christmas spirit.
Sarah Ragoonath the public relations officer of Gulf City said the mall has been seeing customers coming in their numbers.
Ragoonath said because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions put in place throughout the year to curb the spread of the virus sometimes people are seeing a trip to the mall as an “outing.”
“They are coming. The mall is packed,” Ragoonath said.
“This has started since we launched Christmas. There has been a steady traffic flow,” she said.
Ragoonath said the mall officially put up its Christmas decoration since mid-November.
One of the main attractions for the mall is the fact that one of this country’s most renowned mas men created their decorations, Ragoonath said.
“Brian Macfarlane made our decorations so a lot of people come just to see that,” Ragoonath said.
Ragoonath said one of the main obstacles that the mall had to face was when the food court had to remain closed because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“The major challenge was the food court but we overcame that. It is just the restaurants that we have we know they are feeling the pinch because of the no-alcohol rule,” Ragoonath said.
The popular Mode Alive Trading Company said it has also been “very busy” this season.
When Guardian Media visited the company’s Valsayn compound three Sunday ago the place was packed.
The car park was filled to capacity.
Customers have to sanitise before being allowed entry.
“Mode Alive is an usual company. We are a design company and an innovation company. So just like how people buy bread, they have a favourite bread and they buy the same bread over and over. Mode Alive invents new bread. We are very satisfied with the performance of the company,” Mode Alive’s chief executive officer Gary Aboud said.
Gary Aboud said one of the reasons why customers chose Mode Alive is because of its customer-oriented, talented and dedicated staff.
“Mode Alive is a trending brand,” he said.
“Mode Alive is very busy,” Gary Aboud said.
Gary Aboud said because of the number of customers the company is seeing he decided to allow small entrepreneurs to utilise the car park space so they can have a ready market “because there is a consuming audience already on its way with an appetite for shopping.”
“We would hope that malls would follow on our trend and allow some capacity for small businesses to participate in their carparks. That would be a positive trend. We will continue on our mission to encourage young entrepreneurs to develop local expertise,” Gary Aboud said.
“Remember local business is the foundation of the economy. The country does not benefit from large hotel conglomerates because they repatriate all of their profits but local businesses are the foundation,” he said.
“Not long ago we were very small ourselves and we understand the challenges of corporate infancy,” he said.
“It is different sense of pride we are promoting,” Gary Aboud said.