Local retailers will no doubt be hoping to see a spike in end of year sales as a result of the last minute rush right up to Christmas Eve, following the 6.8 percent decline in the overall volume of retail sales for the eighth consecutive month in September.
“Notwithstanding” te third quarter decline, Minister for the Cabinet, Walton Brown has said returning residents declared $4.7 million in goods purchased abroad, which was down 2.1 percent when compared with the same month last year.
Since then, we’ve hear a repeated call, most received by by One Bermuda Alliance Leader Craig Cannonier, for the Government to import more people to work here in Bermuda to boost Bermuda’s economy.
Faced with an ageing population and the projections moving forward, te numbers touted go up to 4,000. This after the Bermuda Government processed just over 2.000 work permits in September.
We’ve known that Bermudas population has shrunk and continues to shrink for some time. So the spin-off effect on the overall volume of retail sales comes as no surprise!
And therein lies the reason for the call to increase Bermuda’s population size!
But with thousands of Bermudians out of work who are either unemployed, under-employed or unemployable, the question remains what exactly is the plan to get Bermudians back to work?
Apart from the last minute rush, heavy shopping in droves in the City of Hamilton was not particularly evident in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Unemployment also means less disposable income, if any.
But whatever local consumers had to spend this Christmas, a big chunk of that cash was spent shopping online.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, you couldn’t held but notice those courier express delivery trucks zipping up and down and all around the island.
Ultimately, whatever the final tally may be, it is fair to say that the percentage of money spent hopping online will impact Bermuda’s Retail Sector this year. And that impact presents big challenges for retailers in the year ahead.
What you do hear from retailers is the ongoing push to encourage residents to ‘Buy Bermuda’, and rightfully so.
To “Buy Bermuda’ is important because retailers employ a significant number of Bermudians. As residents and consumers most of us get that.
But indications are that it is time for them to pay closer attention to what local consumers are showing them.
Flash back to the Minister’s observation that the downturn reflected an ongoing change in the way residents are shopping. Keep in mind that the figure on money spent by shopping online was not included in the September data. It is a figure local retailers would definitely like to hear.
The bottom line for consumers however, comes down to the best buys and the widest selection to get the most bang for their buck!
It is a subject that generated wide ranging views on why local consumers do what they do, when we gauged public feedback via social media.
One woman said: “Unfortunately, it is difficult for Bermuda retailers to compete. All overhead costs here (rent, utilities, wages) are much higher than in the USA. When you add in the shipping and duty the costs goes way up. Also, prices have gone up in the USA across the board, due to trade tariffs. This could be the reason that prices have gone up in Bermuda.”
Another male resident wrote: “Decisions have to be made with each individual with what they want or what they need. Salaries have stagnated and the cost of living continues to increase. Extra cash is what pushes retail, if the average Joe doesn’t have it then the average shop will feel it.
“Yes to all the other variables regarding online and offshore purchasing. Again, the average Joe consumer just like online banking and online travel booking we still have a large segment of the population that use old ways of personal interaction.
“With an ageing population who has zero spending power and a working middle class that is on the brink of collapse or becoming the working poor, the reality is Bermuda needs a shot in the arm…
“We need to rethink our tourism we need to cater to offshore business, we need a serious immigration discussion that looks at it as beneficial and not just numbers to fill in this ‘gap’ in our population.
“Serious – sustainability discussion needs to b incorporated in any immigration discussion. All I hear the island needs more people but we have what – about 4,000 unemployed – we need 4,000 more people.
“If we don’t have the jobs for the 4,000 that can’t find work now what jobs will this new added population of guest workers do?
“We need clarity on all the variables and as always regardless if you’re PLP, or OBA, or UBP, scare tactics to move legislation to implement short term fixes is not the way forward.”
He also asked: “Where are we on casinos and all the entertainment that trickles from that, where are we on possibly being a medical study/clinic location on stem cells…Why are we still paying so much to airlines consolidation to fly to Bermuda when that money could drive our very own airline?
As a resident, he said he was “just tired of how the politics of this country is failing the average/majority of this island”.
“As a third generation with family roots as far back as the 1870s, we need to stop sending silver bullet answers to imaginary wolf man problems. We need to make achievable goals with many and different methods to get there.”
Another resident in her senior years remarked: “Stores are inaccessible, sales reps are often surly and not helpful (not all). It makes shopping online preferable – unfortunately.”
Another woman stated: This is the result of decades of narcissism and greed. During the 90s when department stores and other successful Bermuda businesses died, it was obvious that economic barriers set up by (I think the UBP) were isolationist (see US, as of 2016) and drove costs up – thus failure of businesses and fewer choices, jobs etc.
“I know I’m preaching to the choir and there are many other factors. I just know that when I moved to Bermuda in 1990 I found treasures shopping in Bermuda. By 2014, not the case.”
Another resident said: “Parking is no fun in town so why bother?”
While they agreed “that it’s way too expensive to think about buying gifts or anything, not to mention clothing on this island”, she said: “You could go online and buy the same thing for 75 percent less, so I’m sorry there’s more to the story.”