THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Something is not right
It’s just five more days to go of what’s normally the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, characterised traditionally by maddening traffic congestion on every street, road and alley in and around the City of Bridgetown and other commercial areas.
Usually matching the traffic is a flood of shoppers laden with items of every size and description, from rolls of congoleum to furniture, bedroom and bathroom accessories, curtains, lamps, Christmas trees, TVs, radios, DVD players, other electronic equipment, grills, microwave ovens, blenders, kitchen utensils, cookware, toys, books, balls, bats, dolls, electronic games, tricycles, scooters, other children stuff, suits, gowns, shirts, pants, dresses, footwear and headgear in every style and fashion, watches, rings, chains, necklaces, earrings, other jewellery, colognes, perfumes, make-up kits and on and on and on.
Another flood of shoppers would be those sweeping everything from the shelves, freezers and trays of supermarkets, markets and roadside vendors into trolleys, bags packed with any and everything deemed necessary for Christmas gluttony, imbibing and entertaining.
But I know something is not right this year because up to last Thursday, before this column was written, the streets and stores of Bridgetown, including the main shopping areas of Broad, Swan, lower Roebuck and lower Bay streets, were as free of traditional Christmas congestion as an old-time bare-neck fowl is of feathers.
Never before during the week before Christmas could I risk driving through the City from my office on Spring Garden to go anyplace on the South Coast beyond the Garrison or vice versa. But last Thursday, I drove from Digicel on Hastings, down Bay Street, along Independence Square, across the bridge, down the reopened Wharf Road, through by Immigration, down lower Broad Street, along Cheapside and Fontabelle to reach my office in a mere ten minutes.
I did it without speeding, without having to crawl behind any line of vehicles and without having to stop for any reason other than two red traffic lights and for three pedestrians to cross by St Mary’s Church. Something has to be not right when newspapers, which are gorged fat in this season with Christmas advertisements, are almost as lean as out-of-season publications.
Even the largest establishments seem to have reduced traditional whole-page screams to quarter-page squeaks.
How could something not be wrong when many if not all of those business places which decided to make it easier on the pocket by not passing on the increased 2.5 per cent VAT still have to resort to price slashing, significant discounting and other measures to attract customers?
Any doubt that something is not right disappeared last Friday when I opened my Weekend Nation and saw an advertisement by a Broad Street store for a BIG BLOWOUT SALE at which everything has been “discounted” and everything “must go” and people were invited to come and see the “amazing deals” with “great prices, great quality”.
When that big blowout sale is at the DOLLAR STORE, prove to me that something is not wrong. Nevertheless, I sincerely wish you all a happy Christmas.