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August 28, 2012
Major sellers of school supplies react to August sales

Two major sellers of school supplies in Middle Street, Kingstown, say sales this month are favourable, but did not say it was their best August, as Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves last week said a female storeowner had told him.{{more}}

Further, two storeowners also told SEARCHLIGHT there was a “system” in place that disadvantaged some sellers of school supplies.

“By the way, there is one important store owner in Middle Street who told me that this is the best August she has had since she has been operating business,” Gonsalves said on radio on Wednesday.

He did not identify the storeowner, but said “she has been there for a long time”.

Vincentians yesterday began their last week of shopping before school reopens on Monday.

A heavy downpour in Kingstown just before noon was characteristic of the weather in the nation’s capital and other parts of the country this month.

And Mona Dare of Fred J. Dare and Co. Ltd, which has been in business since 1938, said sales this month were “excellent” although the rain “definitely” affected business.

“I can’t complain. It is very acceptable. I did so well,” Dare, a Syrian-Vincentian, said Friday afternoon.

“Whoever catered for school did so well. … It could have been better because of the recession around the world, but we did so excellent,” she said between pauses.

“Whoever complain, don’t believe them,” she told SEARCHLIGHT at one of her stores in Middle Street. “They didn’t cater for school. If you don’t cater for school, you can’t have a [good] sale this month, you know?” she said.

Dare, however, said she could not give a percentage comparison of August sales, year-on-year.

“I cannot tell you until I go to my books. I will say probably the same. I will have to ask my accountant and go to my books,” she said. “You cannot compare with the rest years,” she, however, added, noting the global recession.

“And whoever is not doing well, they should close down. You don’t think so?”

Dare said “a few of the [other] Syrians” who own businesses in Kingstown “didn’t cater for school”.

“They did bad and they complain. But if you cater for school, you will do well,” she said, adding that politics was dividing the Syrian community.

“And you have to be behind your business,” said Dare, who owns three stores in Kingstown, with a fourth, damaged by fire, being repaired.

“Sometimes, I feel I will have a heart attack from the pressure. I have to be running from store to store. It is a lot of hard work nowadays, definitely. But what I meant, we have to have to thank the Almighty. Things are going well little bit and we have to thank Him,” she further said.

But Sylvia De Freitas of Nightingale Book Shop, located across the street from Fred Dare, said sales this August were not as good as last year.

“First two weeks were very hectic, extremely hectic. Then it kind of petered off. Mondays and Fridays are the most hectic,” said De Freitas, whose family has owned the 52-year-old bookshop for 25 years.

“It is a lot less this year,” she told SEARCHLIGHT Friday afternoon, adding that there was more sale of primary school books this year.

Asked about shoppers’ comments, De Freitas said: “Those who have heavy book lists complain that they (shoppers’ children) are not going to use all the books. A book list might have 18, 19 books and children might not necessarily use all of them during the school year.”

De Freitas said she was able to determine that sales this year were less when she compared her earnings with previous years.

She, however, said she was not in a position to say by what percentage sales had fallen.

The businesswoman said she was optimistic about sales increasing this week.

“I am sure it will next (this) week. Usually, the last week is very heavy,” she said on Friday.

She, however, told SEARCHLIGHT, “there is a system [that benefits some stores], but I will leave it at that.

“I know what I am speaking about. … Maybe you should ask the Ministry of Education what is the system,” she said, when asked to elaborate.

A female manager at another store that sells school supplies, spoke of “a system” when SEARCHLIGHT spoke to her in a separate interview on Friday.

The woman, who had asked that neither she nor her company be identified, agreed to an interview, but said she needed clearance from a higher-level manager, to seek authorisation to comment on the “system”.

She, however, said on Monday that neither she nor the company would comment.

“We will not be able to comment at this time, because our figures are not in as yet. I hope you understand,” she told SEARCHLIGHT by telephone on Monday.

Meanwhile, a male manager at another school supplies outlet told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday that he was busy and could not comment on sales this year. [email protected]