Shoppers swarm Princes Town, Chaguanas

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…busi­ness still slow in San Fer­nan­do as cus­tomers spend cau­tious­ly

Rad­hi­ca Sookraj

Shop­ping has re­mained steady in the bustling towns of Princes Town and Ch­agua­nas, but in the in­dus­tri­al cap­i­tal of San Fer­nan­do shop­ping re­mains slow in the lead-up to Christ­mas.In Princes Town, on Fri­day, busi­ness own­ers said shop­pers were at­tract­ed to ex­cel­lent prices, ex­em­plary ser­vice, and prop­er traf­fic con­trol by po­lice of­fi­cers.

Park­ing re­mains eas­i­ly ac­ces­si­ble on the out­skirts of the town while street ven­dors have been ac­com­mo­dat­ed in the town’s “Tri­an­gle,” sit­u­at­ed a stone’s throw away from the po­lice sta­tion. Yas­sim Ra­haman, who op­er­ates an agro shop and a car park at Tram­line Street, said a steady stream of cus­tomers had been flow­ing through the town cen­tre.

“Peo­ple come from as far as Diego Mar­tin, Tu­na­puna, Ma­yaro, and Port-of-Spain to shop here,” he said. “The pur­chas­es in Princes Town are some­times 50 per cent cheap­er than in oth­er ar­eas.” Sev­er­al shop­pers con­firmed Ra­haman’s claim.

“In Princes Town peo­ple don’t try to dig out your eyes with prices. We have hon­est busi­ness­peo­ple who will put a small mark up on their goods,” Ka­mal Ali said. Chris­tine Gopaul and Damien Ali, who were seen buy­ing cur­tains at Miguel Moses store, said they pre­ferred shop­ping in Princes Town be­cause of con­ve­nience and val­ue for mon­ey. “We live in Princes Town and we de­cid­ed to sew our own cur­tains this year,” Gopaul said.

At the Trea­sure Chest Jew­ellery store, busi­ness­man Kaz­im Mo­hamed said 2014 was a bit gloomy com­pared to 2013. He said many cus­tomers were pur­chas­ing jew­el­ry on­line. Mo­hamed said his prices were very good and he had a loy­al clien­tele, and this was what made his busi­ness pros­per­ous.How­ev­er, some busi­ness own­ers said falling oil prices had had an im­pact on shop­ping.

Camille Mo­hamed, man­ag­er of Shamell’s Fash­ions, said, “There are lots of stores where peo­ple get rea­son­able prices, but I think peo­ple are watch­ing how they spend.” She said Princes Town has re­mained one of the busiest towns in the coun­try.Mean­while, in San Fer­nan­do, busi­ness own­ers com­plained that too many peo­ple were win­dow shop­ping rather than buy­ing.

“We have had peo­ple come to the stores but not many of them are buy­ing, like what we saw in pre­vi­ous years,” one store own­er said.Pres­i­dent of the San Fer­nan­do Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, Daphne Bartlett, said she hoped that busi­ness will pick up as Christ­mas drew near. She said shop­pers were dis­suad­ed by the chaos caused by street vend­ing. She ex­plained that ven­dors who were giv­en an op­por­tu­ni­ty to vend on the streets walked with long ta­bles which blocked the streets and pave­ments.

“Ve­hi­cles can­not stop to pick up shop­pers on High Street and it is chaos. If we ac­com­mo­date 80 ven­dors and some of them bring four and five ta­bles for goods, there will be no room to walk,” she added. Bartlett said be­cause of falling oil prices, peo­ple were be­ing more cau­tious with spend­ing.In Ch­agua­nas, busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ty al­so re­mained steady.

How­ev­er, busi­ness own­ers said they ex­pect­ed to have even more shop­pers this week­end.Pres­i­dent of the Ch­agua­nas Cham­ber of In­dus­try and Com­merce, Rishi Sookhai, said, “Shop­ping has not picked up as it should. Lots of peo­ple are still win­dow shop­ping, but we ex­pect it will be pick­ing up in an ex­po­nen­tial way be­cause we will have a lot of pro­cras­ti­na­tors who will be catch­ing up on late shop­ping.”

Asked why peo­ple have not been shop­ping as they usu­al­ly do, Sookhai said, “Peo­ple are wait­ing to get paid, to get bonus­es…Peo­ple are wor­ried about the falling oil prices and they

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