Lockdown squeezes MoBay businesses
After just one weekend of the extraordinary restrictions imposed by the Government to try and rein in COVID-19 infection numbers, business operators in western Jamaica are already counting their losses even as some reluctantly support the measures.
The Government has imposed three consecutive weekend lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, with the first being last weekend.
Sunil ‘Danny’ Vangani, who has been operating businesses along the north coast belt for the past 25 years, told The Gleaner that the measures have been affecting his department store, Danny’s Bargain Centre, which is located in the commercial hub of Montego Bay.
“No customers are shopping because they cannot party or go to the beach, and with this restriction, it does not make sense you open the shop for two and three hours,” said Vangani, referring to days when non-essential businesses have been ordered to close by midday. “... For staff to come to work and go back in three hours makes no sense for us.”
Vangani said that with the weekend lockdowns, his business will take a hit.
“It has been very tough for our local business, but we do a bit better business on the weekends, but this is going to be hard, especially with this lockdown falling on one of the busiest times for local commerce. In fact, this is normally the best three weeks of the year for us,” he told The Gleaner.
Prior to COVID-19 reaching local shores, Vangani also operated in-bond stores in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, but was forced to close the location in the Garden Parish after revenue from tourism sector dried up. He continues to run his Montego Bay facility, My Choice Jamaica Limited, despite no business coming from tourism.
He is, however, expecting improvement for the upcoming winter tourism season.
“The lockdown has not been good, but we understand why it had to be done. Business also dropped big time since December, but I am positive tourism will be back by November, December,” he said.
Donovan Cunningham, operator of Triple Seven Auto, Lighting and Accessories, has also seen a slowdown in business.
“There is a major cutback since COVID, but we still manage to stay afloat, but these additional restrictions have slowed us right down,” he told The Gleaner. “From the announcement about the Easter weekend lockdown, business has been slow. It seems as if customers are looking to cut back.”
The outsourcing sector is exempt from the restrictions under the Disaster Risk Management Act, but sector players are required to provide transportation for workers from operation site to home.
According to Gloria Henry, president of the Global Services Association of Jamaica, the membership has had to make additional adjustments to ensure business continuity and support the labour pool.
“Our workers have to access services within the business community, so our membership have had to make adjustments within their operations on some of those days to allow their workers time to do their personal business,” said Henry. “We also have service providers that are not exempt, but we have to make adjustments to maintain our service delivery to our clients, while at the same time putting our support behind this national initiative to reduce the spread of the virus in Jamaica, and thus, the tremendous stress on healthcare and other infrastructure.”
However, businessman Rohan ‘Yash Bowl’ Clarke, who operates three outlets in the Montego Bay commercial space, is frustrated with the measures implemented by the Holness administration to fight crime and COVID-19, as they generally take effect during what would be his peak sales period.
“The states of emergency wrecked my business because they were shutting us down when my customers, who would normally purchase their dinner while on their way home, had to be rushing because of the presence of the police and soldiers,” said Clarke, who inherited the business from his father.
“We have not recovered from that experience. Our debts are still before us, and now more restrictions that could mean the end of my business ... ,” he said. “I might as well throw in the towel.”