Retailers lament back-to-school ‘disaster’ amid massive sales drop

Retailers lament back-to-school ‘disaster’ amid massive sales drop
Janaee's Uniform Depot

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Retailers have described this year’s ‘back-to-school’ season a ‘complete disaster’, with one well-known uniform supplier estimating that its business was ‘less than a percent’ of what it was last year.

The sentiments come as the government yesterday announced that the back-to-school VAT holiday which was foreshadowed in the 2019/2020 budget  and will begin on Monday August 31, when most businesses are expected to reopen.

Still, James Wallace, owner and operator of the popular uniform supplier Janae’s Uniform Centre told Eyewitness News that for his business there will be no back-to-school season this year.

“From Janae’s perspective there has been no back-to-school season,” he said.

“We have sold nothing for back-to-school. We brought in inventory well before COVID-19 struck. We received those merchandise, paid the VAT on them and all the necessary costs but have not been able to sell them. The back-to-school business for us this year is less than 10 per cent of what it was the last year, it’s a complete disaster.

“No one knew what was going on, the government was late in making announcements and a lot of people were not working. I believe that Janae’s like a lot of businesses dealing with back-to-school are in a very serious position,” said Wallace.

The retailer, which employs some 25 full-time staff, was forced to lay-off employees, Wallace said.

“We had to lay-off staff and we do to know when we will bring them back-to- work because we have no confidence that there will be back-to school where kids will be physically turning up in uniforms,” he continued.

“Typically we have about 25 employees. Normally during back-to school we bring on about 10-15 additional persons to assist and we did not do that this year. We kept holding on. We launched an Ad campaign that we had to cancel as the Ministry of Education was very late in making a decision with respect to schools,” said Wallace.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance yesterday the back-to-school VAT Holiday will cover a range of locally purchased school supplies, including school uniforms, clothing, backpacks, electronic book readers, and even school snacks.

The comprehensive list will be made available on the Department of Inland Revenue’s website.

Imported items are not included under the VAT Holiday and will attract the ordinary border taxes. The Back-to-School VAT holiday will run from Monday, August 31, to Sunday, September 20 – ahead of the planned reopening of schools in September.