Business operators in St James employing new strategies to survive COVID-19

Business operators in St James employing new strategies to survive COVID-19

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Some small business operators in St James, reeling from the loss of business in the wake of the COVID-19 are now substituting conventional methods they have been employing over the years with more innovative strategies to keep their businesses alive.

For Hope and Edward Sterling, operators of Sterling's Fashion Hut, situated along Market Street in Montego Bay, diversification has been the tool employed to keep afloat.

For over 25 years, the couple's business has been selling clothes. Since the plummeting of sales, they have now added small appliances to their inventory and have intensified advertising of their business.

“Diversification is essential. We have to diversify as it seems like people don't have any money. Some have lost their jobs, and some have also lost their assets. So what do we do? “We sell clothes but are now diversifying with small appliances. So there might be a week when there is no sale on clothes, but you might sell something up there,” Hope said, pointing to the stock of small appliances on the shelves.

She added: “I wouldn't say we are coping well, but for the time being we are holding on. We have to do a lot more advertising, and one might ask, advertise? Yes, we want people to remember we are here.”

For his part, another Montego Bay business operator, Danny Davis, proprietor of Danny's Upholstery, who usually hires extra hands whenever he gets specialized jobs, now handles everything on his own.

“As you see it, is just me alone for now because now I can't employ anybody. I used to have people for certain work. I call them and they come in. I can't take in any worker because they will be looking to you for payment at the end of the week. After things pick up, you can put back yourself, but as I say, I can't employ anyone right now,” Davis told the Business Observer.

“This is the time that you call 'rainy day'. Some man think that a rainy day is a thing where you put something aside and you bruk in two weeks' time but now is the rainy day.”

Seasoned St James cabbie David Miller noted that there are now fewer people travelling since the onset of COVID-19; therefore, it is even more imperative to employ strategies to maintain them.

“Build your passenger base; treat your passengers good. Sometimes you will have circumstances where passengers don't behave so nicely; they do unkind things, but talk to them, respect them, and they will come back. The most important thing is that you need their money [fares],” Miller advised.

He also outlined that it is more economical to have people calling in for the service than to compete for the handful of commuters.

“Another strategy I am using is something I have been doing for a while. You build a customer base with your passengers, and then you get most of your work by phone calls. So while the regular man [taxi operator] will try to hunt for passengers, you can survive on a phone call. There are days when you get phone calls for the whole day. If you drive to hunt passengers, you might drive and don't get anybody, meaning you burn out your gas,” the cabbie argued.

He cited that in all his years in the taxi business, “it is the first me ever see it so slow”.

Another veteran businessman, Elfermel Scarlett, who has for the past 25 years been operating Mel's Snack and All-purpose Store in Montego Bay, says he is now experiencing his toughest days in the business but he will not shut down and stay at home.

“Since February, the business has fallen right down. I would normally open by 6:30 am, but now I open, like, 8:00 am because in this area, all the businesses are locked up. One and two people walk in, but there are no passers-by who will come in. Since COVID, nobody passing, everybody must be locked in,” he said.

He has been subsidising the business from other resources just to keep it going.

“I have not applied for a grant. If I were to rely on the business to pay utility bills, they would not be paid. I have to just put in a little more stock,” Scarlett said.


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