When one points a finger, three fingers are pointing back – Adam Harris

When one points a finger, three fingers are pointing back

 Mar 12, 2017  Features / Columnists, My Column  Adam Harris

The introduction of parking meters in the city is being blamed for just about everything, from a decline in business to a potential hit on the economy. Many businessmen in the city, as I mentioned recently, are claiming that their business has declined by as much as fifty percent since the introduction of the parking meters.

For one, these businesses are telling us that most of their shoppers are people who drive, when the reality is that eighty percent of shoppers are people who walk. They travel to the shopping centres by minibus, do their shopping, then head to the bus parks. The few drivers who shop are people who would buy some small item.  

If indeed they use the supermarkets, then they may object to paying to park, but I doubt that anyone who needs something would refrain from buying it because of parking meters. If indeed the bulk of the shoppers were motorists, then Guyana is ahead of most countries in the world. People in those countries go shopping with their vehicles and use the car parks provided by the centre.

However, one can count the number of cars and arrive at a conclusion when one goes inside the shopping centres. There is no way those cars could have transported all those people. Assuming that the shopper would park and walk around to the various stores and make the purchases, that would now amount to forty or fifty percent of the current sales, then that would be to stretch the imagination.

Besides, those businessmen who are reporting such a whopping drop in business must have been making tons of money to be able to continue at the present rate of their perceived loss. I am also to see a fifty percent decline in imports, because if there is this drop in business, then there must be a corresponding drop in imports, because most of what we sell is imported.

I remember the hue and cry, when, as part of the beautification of the city, the council cordoned areas that were once parking places for people going to the municipal markets. The cry was that people would now have nowhere to park, so shopping at the markets would decline. More than a year has passed; people are still going to the market with their cars and finding parking places.

The truth is that business is thriving. Many stores are capitalizing on the new influx of shoppers to the extent that they open their doors on Sundays. I see these shoppers and I hear the criticisms of the Chinese. It has to do with what is being offered for sale. I contend that our businessmen seem unable to attract the volume of shoppers because of what they offer.

Besides, they have been accustomed to a hefty mark-up. The new business people go for a lower mark-up and thus enjoy a higher volume of sales. The average shopper always looks for bargains.

So it may be appropriate to blame the value added tax, but then again, the businessmen do not lower their prices to accommodate the lower VAT. They simply aim to make even more money without trying.

It should not escape notice that many shopping outlets are popping up in rural Guyana. Where there are the new housing schemes, there are shopping centres offering many of the things that the city businesses once offered. In fact, people are leaving the city to shop at some of those out-of-town businesses.

I have seen the crowds trekking to Giftland on the lower East Coast Demerara. I have also seen the steady throng of shoppers heading to locations on East Bank Demerara. Some go as far as Parika, routinely.

It is a tradition to blame every other thing for our decline. The whipping boy at this time is the parking meter. Prior to this, it was the government who was not injecting enough money into the system to spur growth.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan was at pains to show that people are getting more money than they did by May 2015. They have to be spending more, so I am at a loss to understand this drop in business due to the parking meter. If people are withdrawing money, they must be doing so for a purpose. The money must be going to the business places. It depends on which business places.

There are parking meters outside the commercial banks, but I do not see a drop in the number of customers. There should have been a decline in people. More of them could have gone for bank cards and so avoid going to the banks to make withdrawals.

Perhaps the time is right for some of the businesses to ascertain the rate of online shopping. The days when women flocked the boutiques are slowly declining. I know because I have friends who shop online and they say that they are getting things cheaply, and they are getting their money’s worth.

Advertising has always been known to help boost sales. This is not a premium for many local businessmen, who feel that people will simply walk off the streets. Another thing is display. I am certain that if some of them spend money on making their business place attractive they will see amazing results.

Lights and tinsel can do a lot. Music also helps. Nothing beats shopping to music in the background. Pleasant assistants are a bonus. I know of people who say that they will never go to certain business places because an assistant actually suggested that they were there to shoplift.

If indeed business is as bad as some people make out to be, then it is time for those business places to take stock of their operations.

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