THE Jamaica Observer's Celebration of Fashion's Night Out (FNO) was yesterday branded as an all-important kick-start to the economy at a time when it is projected to contract.
Julian Patrick, manager, sponsorship and promotions at National Commercial Bank (NCB), explained why he so designated the five-hour shopping event during the weekly Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.
"In FNO you are talking about five to six hours of shopping where over $1 billion is generated, which filters down to every stratum, every single sector of the economy. So when we look at the Planning Institute of Jamaica's forecast where it is expected that the economy will contract by 0.5 per cent this quarter, it is very important that we support these kinds of initiatives that support our local designers and merchants," Patrick said.
"This is the only way we are going to grow the economy. This is how you generate growth and we are very, very proud to be a part of this initiative," he told the Exchange which had as guests merchants and sponsors of the event now in its fourth year.
"We are happy at NCB to be part of FNO," Patrick said of NCB's sponsorship. "There are many ways to drive growth in the economy; we looked at FNO not only from the merchant perspective but also from our mandate of 'Building a Better Jamaica'."
Another sponsor, Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS), said it is using the event to promote mortgages.
"We are doing some of the things we did last year, but this year we are adding new concepts — we will be giving special bonuses for persons who apply for mortgages during the month of September. So we want to give a bonus to persons who shop [during] FNO and retain their receipts throughout the month. They will be able to access special gifts for the rest of the month," Keisha Mascoll, marketing manager at VMBS, told the Exchange.
Vivienne Bayley-Hay, vice-president, group marketing and corporate affairs for VMBS, said her company was making mortgages "even more fashionable".
"Persons tend to think FNO is only about handbags and clothing but it's also about home ownership which is very important, so this we see as a very important collaboration. There are a lot of persons who want to own a home and this is now an opportunity to do it," she said, adding "it's a little extra for persons who begin or complete their mortgage in September."
Savers will also benefit, she said.
"We are not just focusing on mortgages alone, we are also looking at savings and we have some very attractive Certificates of Deposit rates out there now for persons who invest $250,000 and upwards. They can get as high as 7.1 per cent for one-year CDs, which is very attractive in the investment climate that we have presently," she noted.
The Observer's Senior Associate Editor - Lifestyle and Social Content Novia McDonald-Whyte reiterated that the Jamaica Observer's Celebration of FNO "is designed specifically to stimulate the economy and, by extension, keep shops open".
"We took our city back four years ago and showed retailers and consumers that late night shopping was not only attractive but highly profitable," she said, noting that people are able to shop after hours with great prices as an added incentive.
Sinclair's Bargain Centre's Tracey Sinclair is of the opinion that the Observer's Celebration of FNO is the retailer's dream come through.
"We believe sincerely in giving discounts and at this time when everybody is so wrapped up thinking the money is finished and for the Observer to come on board and remind them that they still have a little bit left, it is a wonderful initiative and we are excited to be a part of it," she said.
Signatures Boutique Director Patricia Samuels said while her business had been around for some 28 years the Observer's Celebration of FNO "has been very positive" for her.
"We have a policy, we don't have sales, it's not the culture of the business, so FNO gives us the opportunity to break that trend that we have set for ourselves. What we do is sell it as a gift for our customers... we have been onboard from the beginning and we will continue with it because it definitely works for us," she said.
The Jamaica Observer's Celebration of Fashion's Night Out will see hundreds of stores across the island offering discounts of up to 70 per cent on merchandise from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm this Thursday.