Economic slowdown threatening businesses’ existence – Unemployment rate rises
With international companies continuing to suffer major losses, many have opted to cut corners—most recently one of America’s largest retail stores, Macy’s announced that it will be closing 68 of its 100 stores countrywide.
The company has also moved to cut 10,000 jobs and eliminate 6,200 positions due to disappointing sales.
Only last month, Sears, America’s top appliance store since 1886 closed 150 stores countrywide and 250 employees were laid off in an apparent move to cut costs as the company struggles to stay afloat.
This signals that the downward trajectory of business in Guyana is not unique, since many local businesses are also making drastic cuts to their human resources in order to survive.
A computer store in Guyana has indicated its intention of closing at least two of its outlets as the entity continues to face financial challenges.
Store owners on Regent Street, Georgetown are crying foul as most of them have been forced to dig into their personal savings in order to keep their businesses afloat.
In addition to skimping salaries, some businesses were strained to the extent, where they had to take the drastic step of sending home staff and have their children do the work instead.
On Friday, a number of store owners opened up to Kaieteur News about how business has been for the past few months. Frustration showed on their faces.
One businessman in the furniture industry said that he has been doing business for more than 20 years and that the current decline in sales is the worst he has ever experienced.
While the businessman does not intend to cut salaries, he is definitely laying off members of his staff. He asserted that if the slowdown in the economy doesn’t take a reverse pattern soon, he will be forced to implement more drastic measures.
The nightmare of having to shut down operations and close their doors is becoming more and more real for many businesses.
Another businessman in the clothing sector said that while migration has never been on the agenda for him and his family, they are now thinking about it.
“If I get an offer now, I am going to take it because I think it is the only option available for my family. Things are really bad and I have been a businessman for most of my life but things are just not working out.”
When reporters went into another store, the owner and his wife were sitting at the back with their calculator.
After the reporters introduced themselves and stated the purpose for the visit, the businessman asked, “Do you know what we are doing here? We are calculating how we are going to pay our employees this week because we haven’t gotten a single sale in three days.”
The middle aged man related the struggles that forced him to lay off two of his “very good” employees, just last week.
While he was able to hold on to three others, the lack of income by the business has made paying salaries very difficult. His personal savings have been taking a brutal hit in this regard.
“They are poor and they got families to take care of, so it’s hard when you see you have to make a choice to send off people,” the man’s associate interjected.
In the technology sector, one businessman said, “My wife is here and she is assisting because I can’t afford to pay staff. Even if I cut hours, I wouldn’t afford to pay because we are not getting sales.”
Although Guyanese women are known to be extravagant when it comes to looking good, it would appear as though the economic slowdown is even causing them to penny-wise.
One businesswoman in the cosmetic sector explained to this publication that she too has had to dig into her pocket for the past three months to pay employees, as well as rental for the business space.
“I don’t know how (much longer) I can keep up. This is a lot of investment and the tax and VAT (Value Added Tax) killing us more.”
Abhi Manyu, a manager with Flex Enterprise, a Suriname company which opened its door late last year, said that business was good in December, but sales started to decline in January and got even worse as of recently.
Also adding his views on the downward slope of business was A Bin, a Chinese National who operates Gao De Store, a household appliance store on Regent Street.
“Things no good…slow, slow, slow. You see no customer. Last year mo betta; this year bad, bad. Me no hiring, me can’t pay, A Bin stressed.”
A businesswoman on Robb Street, Georgetown, said that she sold one item worth $2600 last week. “Imagine, $2500 for a week and I have three employees to pay $12,000 each, plus rent at the end of the month. I don’t know how I am going to continue like this but I am going to have to lay off staff. I am only keeping them to see if business will pick up,” the woman said.
An East Street, Georgetown businessman said that he sent off two staffers last week and is planning to send off another one in the coming week.
Kaieteur News had previously reported on the retrenchment occurring in mainly the private sector. The businessmen and women who spoke with this newspaper last Friday are almost at their wits end.
If the economic condition does not adjust very soon, business on Regent Street may take on a whole new look – a look that showcases more closed doors than open stores.