Coronavirus setback

Coronavirus setback

Small business operators in downtown Kingston say they'll have to source goods outside China... for now

Staff reporter

Monday, February 10, 2020

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Some small business operators in downtown Kingston who travel to the People's Republic of China to purchase merchandise are pondering their next move in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China which has spread to 28 countries and territories around the world.

Despite having the option to travel to Los Angeles, Panama, or Turks and Caicos Islands they believe their business will be affected.

Last Tuesday when the Jamaica Observer visited business operators on Luke Lane, the majority said that they would have been travelling to Guangzhou in March and April this year.

While some pointed out that the cost associated with sourcing the items from other countries will hit their businesses negatively, they also said they would have to find a way to continue their only means of making a living.

One businesswoman, who gave her name only as Angella, said she will have to revisit going to Panama.

“I have to make different plans. I don't think I want to go back to China right, right now,” she said shortly after opening her store.

“…Looking to go to Panama,” the mother of two said, adding that she had not visited that country in 10 years.

“I used to shop in the US, but because the US dollar so high I began travelling to China three years ago,” she said, revealing that she used to buy goods in the Asian country three times each year.

Angella, who said she had imported goods during her visit to China between January 3 and 13 this year, told the Observer that she would have been due for a second trip next month.

She disclosed that on her arrival at John F Kennedy Airport in New York from China last month, she thought something was amiss when a Customs officer asked her if she had visited Wuhan.

“I said 'no', but it rang a bell and I said let me Google it,” Angella said.

“I have to give God thanks for allowing me to go in and come out safe,” she added.
Delroy Campbell, who also operates a store on Luke Lane, said he had been visiting China two times per year for the last seven years. He said the outbreak of the virus will affect his business even though he has visas to travel to the US and Canada.

“American things them different, but China, you know the shoppers nuh really have the whole heap a money; when you go to America and buy a shoe for US$100 you will come and sell that shoe for $15,000, $16,000, $17,000. China now, you can buy a shoe and when you come here you can tell a man $6,000, $7,000 and a man grab it, and a it the people them a gravitate to. The customers don't have a problem buying it, and so you don't have a problem selling it,” Campbell explained as he sat on a chair at the entrance to his business place.

“The people them say cheap and clean, them gravitate to it and it more affordable, better for people and everything. Right now, a China a the place to be. From me discover China, it work out. Mi nah dash weh America because mi achieve things out of America, but since I went to China it pushes people and a lot of people business grow,” Campbell continued.

He said he was planning to visit Guangzhou in April.

Last Thursday, when the Observer visited Oxford Arcade, more popularly known as Back Market, some business operators said their current stock will be depleted in a few months. As such, they will have to visit countries other than China to purchase merchandise.

“I have to go to other countries. I am not going to let that stop me from doing my business. I have to do something. I can't let it hold me back, but it really cramp me,” Theresa Martin said of the situation in China.

Notwithstanding the fact that the business operators are able to visit other countries, it was highlighted during the interviews that China supplies goods to distributors in those countries as well.

“All business people would be affected. LA (Los Angeles) soon run out of stuff. There are Chinese store in LA as well,” Valrie Henry said, adding, “If the coronavirus continues it is going to affect our business.”

Louise Byfield said 15 years ago she started shopping in China twice per year.

Like Angella, Byfield was anticipating her visit next month.

“Now that this is the situation, I have to go to LA then. To go to LA it is more expensive than to go to China. China is much cheaper, but you will get better stock in LA,” the elderly woman explained.

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