NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The county’s current lockdown will be the ‘nail in the coffin’ for many Bahamian retailers and the jobs that go with them the Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR) has warned, noting that companies have already ‘drained any reserves’ they may have had during the first wave of lockdowns.
In a statement, the BFR underscored the wholesale and retail sector is the second largest private sector employer, after the hotel sector which is currently non-operational due to the restraints on tourism under COVID-19.
The BFR noted the wholesale and retail sector employed over 22,000 persons as of December 2019.
In a national address Monday night, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a national lockdown for the entire country which began Tuesday at 10pm.
Minnis announced the move as he revealed ICU beds are at capacity and non-critical care beds are approaching capacity due to the continued surge in COVID-19 cases. He said the lockdown will last for a minimum of two-weeks, and will be reassessed near the end of this period.
“The second lockdown will unfortunately fare far worse than the first as companies have already drained any reserves they may have had during the first wave of lockdowns,” the statement continued.
“Tragically this will be the nail in the coffin for many Bahamian retailers and the jobs that go with them.
“In this unprecedented COVID-19 era, we are committed as the Bahamas Federation of Retailers to working with the government to educate Bahamians on how to follow the safety protocols that will enable Bahamians to shop locally in a safe environment.”
It read: “We enforce social distancing protocols, sanitizing, the wearing of masks and capacity constraints as outlined by the Competent Authority. Although curbside and delivery did not work for all of our members, many retailers have been working tirelessly and invested heavily to refine contact-less delivery of goods through either curbside or delivery options as well as investments in online shopping.”
The BFR said that retailers are disappointed to see that yet again these options are not being permitted for Bahamian businesses.
“We have been collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce and will be reaching out to the government directly to see how we can come up with a solution that serves both the business community and addresses the safety concerns now faced by the nation,” the statement read.
“The sad reality of the situation is that if this keeps up, with no business assistance or opportunity to keep doors open, retailers will go out of business along with the jobs that they provide. We need to find creative ways to support the businesses that are here today and secure those jobs for the future.
“Unfortunately COVID-19 does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon and we need to forge ahead with a more sustainable path. We encourage all Bahamians to make a point of shopping locally and by doing so supporting the recovery of the Bahamas,” said the BFR.