Business up this Christmas season
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Clothing and shoe retailers say that the 20 per cent duty rate cut on imported clothing and shoes has resulted in a ‘strong year’ for sales capped by “one of our best holiday seasons on record”.
One prominent retailer, who is also a member of the Bahamas Federation of Retailers, spoke to Eyewitness News Online anonymously yesterday.
The retailer said: “The month started slowly, considering this has been mostly a strong year in clothing and apparel retail due to the excellent and badly needed reforms the government passed last year, which we thank the deputy prime minister and his office, in particular, for implementing.
“It made it possible for clothing and apparel retailers to import duty free, so long as they showed proof of being up-to-date with their NIB and VAT. Reforms like that take time to bear fruit, contrary to popular opinion, so clothing & apparel retailers are only now, this year, beginning to truly benefit from the reduced taxes and this is probably the second or third full ‘season’ where almost all their products offered would have been brought in under the new duty waiver offered to tax compliant apparel vendors.”
The retailer continued: “This has empowered the vendors to pass on considerable cost savings to our customers, despite the increase in VAT, especially with kids clothing & shoes, where parents seem to have noticed the difference right away. Most of our items are anywhere from $10 to $20 cheaper than they would have been without the reform, that’s very significant when people are making up their minds to buy or not.
“We thank this FNM government. We hope the government codifies this new policy into legislation and expands it to include the rest of the wholesale and retail industry as it will significantly boost the local economy through increased domestic investment, increased local employment, increased domestic demand, increased selection & variety and therefore increased returns to the government via the resultant increases in NIB & VAT receipts generated.
“The Bahamian public, expats and tourists alike all want to shop in paradise whenever possible – who doesn’t? It’s what the country built its reputation on all those years ago after all – we were the international shopping mecca in the 50s and 60s. We can and should be that again.”
The retailer noted that more persons want to shop locally again as the whole ‘support local businesses’ movement seems to be registering with people all over the world, which is very encouraging.
Sarah Hug, operator of Sarah’s Secrets, also agreed that business is up this Christmas season.
“Duty free has made a big difference,” she said.
Charmaine Burrows, manager at the Johns Shoes and Accessories store on Carmichael Road told Eyewitness News Online: “ I must say things are pretty good. I think have seen a hike from what we saw last year. We were a bit worried because nothing really happened until the first weekend of December when persons started shopping.
“The next weekend after that we saw another hike. I think we saw an increases in business from last year. Even though Dorian has affected some persons, people are still shopping and are blessed some how. We also gave back to our customers this season. This is first time we have had a $1,000 giveaway at both fo our locations.”
The elimination of 20-25 percent Customs duty on footwear and apparel was unveiled in the 2018/2019 budget. Recognizing that Bahamian retailers were struggling to compete with online shopping and south Florida merchants, the Government implemented the Customs duty waiver as part of its package of tax relief measures.
Eligible shoe and clothing retailers with a valid business license can apply online for the duty waiver. It covers the import of clothing, footwear and other wearing apparels and accessories, as well as fabric for making apparel, sewing needles, buttons and zippers for clothing, for a period of six months.
Businesses must declare both the current pricing of sample items at the time of application and the anticipated new price after the concessions are granted. They also have to commit to advertise their marked down prices in a prominent way.
To qualify for a renewal, they have to show, using examples, how prices have been marked down and quantify the savings passed on to consumers. They are also subject to inspections and review by the Ministry of Finance.