Bleak Christmas for most downtown Kingston vendors


Bleak Christmas for most downtown Kingston vendors

Say curfew hours too restrictive for business, others concerned about health situation

Observer staff reporter

Friday, November 27, 2020

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Just one month before Christmas and the downtown Kingston's shopping meccas of Darling and Beckford Streets are already lined with the latest fashion wear and other Xmas-related goods. But vendors plying their goods, trying to make up for lost earnings since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic are weary that Christmas this year will be less than festive.

On Tuesday, November 24, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the updated COVID-19 curfew hours for the December to January 1 holiday period, restricting movement of people from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, and from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am on Christmas and Boxing Day.

But vendors, who spoke with this publication yesterday, said that the restrictions will put a dent in sales, with some arguing that the nightly curfew on Christmas Eve should start at midnight instead of 10:00 pm.

Nardia Brown, 34, a hairstylist on Beckford Street, was upset that the Jamaican Christmas tradition of grand market night would just not be the same with a 10:00 pm curfew.

“Pon Christmas Eve mi bleach di whole night till day light. We want di bleaching night,” Brown bellowed.

“A Christmas time and people a try make dem likkle money. If curfew a gwan wi nah guh mek nuh money.

“Wah happen to grand market? Ten o'clock pon grand market night still too early. Dem need fi put it to at least midnight. A grand market that enuh. A it di people dem a depend pon,” said Brown, who was busy braiding plaits for a client.

“Business slow from corona come in and di whole heap a lock dung. Yuh have some people who normally leave work and come down here all in a di 7 o'clock fi get dem nails and hair done cuz dem know di girls dem deh pon di street. Dem cyah come cause a di curfew. Ten years mi a do dis, and dis a di worse Christmas,” Brown lamented.

Nicholas Lawman, 42, a vendor at the Oxford Mall Arcade, told the Caribbean Business Report that he already made big spends stocking up on new items to sell on Christmas Eve.

“Mi buy up the clothes them but mi nah see the returns all now. Normally mi would a mek how much money already. From morning mi nuh sell nutten,” said Lawman.

He explained that the ban on parties has reduced the number of customer coming to him for the latest wear.

“One time all 30,000, 40,000 would a in mi pocket already. From corona start, business slow up, because nobody nah go party again. Funeral stop keep and party stop keep, so people stop buy,” said Lawman.

Collin Gordon, a 41-year-old who has been selling clothes for over 20 years at the Oxford Mall Arcade on Darling Street, said that his livelihood took a hard hit from the pandemic as the current restriction on gatherings, and islandwide curfew hours between 9:00 pm and 5:00 am, have relegated his usual stream of party-goer's to stay-at-home orders.

“People nuh have nuh reason fi buy clothes again because everyting lock dung. Dem cyah go party like one time. From party lock dung, den clothes selling a guh lock dung,” Gordon said.

He reasoned that if persons followed the social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, events during the festive season should be allowed. Gordon, however, conceded that safety and public health should also remain a priority.

“If it safe fi dem free up the Christmas then them can do that. But it if nuh safe it nuh mek nuh sense wi run dung di money and in a di long run wi nah live fi spend it.

“But right now, wi nuh suh bad wid di virus so dem can free wi up likkle bit and everybody just follow the protocol same way,” said Gordon.

“Dis a our work so wi have fi do it same way. We have fi continue work all when we out a work. Business slow but wi a live,” he added.

Other vendors were more supportive of the prime minister's announcement.

Andrea Gordon, who was seen manning her stall of men's clothing, said that she would be putting her health over money. For the first time in over 10 years, Gordon said that she would be spending Christmas at home, instead of on the road.

“I will be sleeping in my bed this year.

“I don't have a problem wid it. Ten o'clock is good for me. Jamaican people don't follow rules, but we have fi follow rules now,” said Gordon, admitting that business has been slow.

“Business is not 100 per cent right now but I still have to give thanks because in some countries people cannot come out. The prime minister is trying his best,” she said.

Aubry Cooper, a vendor seen plying an array of belts, echoed Gordon's sentiments.

“Di Christmas look bleaky but wi a work wid it and do wi best. If di Government say 10 o'clock wi have fi just work wid it. Everybody would a like longer hours but wi have fi go wid wah di Government say because wi done see is not a ordinary time,” said Cooper.

He added that he was unable to replenish his goods for the Christmas because of slim earnings.

“Mi want top up mi load and make it look pretty fi di Christmas but mi nuh have di money fi spend. Di COVID ting just slow up everyting, so di money weh mi spend nah turn over. Is di same goods mi a put out since January. Mi want top dem up but mi have di money fi top it up. Mi have dem belt yah from up in a January and mi a box dem same way,” Cooper said.

Inspector of police in charge of the Darling Street Police Station, Henry Sewell, told the Business Report that security measures have been increased for the Christmas period, and the COVID-19 safety protocols are being enforced.

“We have our security measures as it relates to the Christmas season. Some of these have already been rolled and the rest will be rolled out in short order. We have beefed up our foot patrols and we are stopping people for not wearing masks.

“We are also on alert for pickpockets and robberies,” said Inspector Sewell.

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