'Christmas unusual'

'Christmas unusual'

...but leaders in commercial sector expect 'pretty good' festive season

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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As Jamaicans adjust to the idea of a different kind of Christmas this year, commercial sector leaders say there are indications that not only will this be an unusual festive period, but it will also be a buoyant season within the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) is anticipating that this will be the country's strongest retail sales period for the year, although overall retail sales will be below last year's.

JMEA President Richard Pandohie says cash in circulation is likely to decrease, but “nowhere near as bad as one would expect, based on the fallout in the tourism sector”.

He said this can be attributed to the continued buoyancy of remittance inflows, business process outsourcing employment recovering strongly, the high number of Jamaicans that are expected to return to the island for the holidays, and the employment resilience of the pay as you earn (PAYE) group, which includes manufacturers.

He advised, however, that the value and type of spend will change, with a focus on increase in home consumption and home improvement projects.

“So sub-categories, such as food, furniture, construction, paint, should be up,” he said.

Pandohie said there is concern about the impact of the earnings on micro and small service providers, especially those in the informal space, who depend on social gatherings and general festivities for increased business.

He highlighted vendors of apparel, make-up services, and small food items, among others, in the category of those affected in the micro sector.

“Hopefully, the additional one-hour curfew extension, and allowing Grand Market up to 10:00 pm will help to offset the financial hole that many of these persons have found themselves in,” he said.

Pandohie assured that for locally manufactured goods, manufacturers are ready to satisfy both domestic and export demand.

“Many of the companies that have been contacted indicated that they have increased their inventory levels and are confident that they can comfortably meet anticipated demand. A few agro processors have indicated that the impact of the rains of September/October on agricultural production will affect their supply, but for the most part, most companies are ready,” he said.

He stressed, too, that the general mood is one of increased business for the period.

The JMEA president pointed out that, over the years, Christmas shopping has become increasingly compact and the expectation is that this year the shopping period will be less so, as individuals try to do more activities earlier to avoid crowds.

“This will definitely be 'Christmas unusual' as persons, hopefully, will try to keep their celebrations low-key and more family-oriented, to keep the anticipated post-Christmas COVID spike as flat as possible, and, hopefully, by [the] end [of] 2021, we can be back to truly celebrating the holidays in the way we are accustomed to,” Pandohie said.

He said, too, that while businesses are concerned about the escalation in crime, there is hope that deployment of the National Reserve will give a boost in security and act as a deterrent to criminal activities.

President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Lloyd Distant told the Observer that a number of principal retailers among the chamber's membership have also indicated that they expect the season to be robust, notwithstanding the experiences throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

“A number of our members have indicated that they expect it to be a pretty good Christmas. I was surprised because I expected everybody to say it's going to be a terrible Christmas,” he said.

The JCC's membership includes retailers and traders, operators in manufacturing and export, financial institutions, individuals in the creative economies, and small business operators.

Retailers have said that the commercial activity experienced during last weekend's Black Friday sale is an indication of how the Christmas shopping season will turn out.

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