2010’s retail highs and lows

By most accounts from businesses across the Cayman Islands, much of 2010, including the Christmas holiday season, was not particularly strong in terms of revenue and profits were lower than in 2009.  However, some businesses say their bottom line this year was on par with figures from last year and even better.

Jerry Kirkconnel of Kirk Freeport Stores said: “Things were a little flat. Same as last year. We experienced some growth in November but December was even to last year’s figures.” He explained that things really got “bad” in the summer and said October’s performance was “horrible,” adding, “it’s like a see-saw. You have one good day and then one bad one.”

Kirkconnel believes that the Cayman Islands have about two tough years ahead. “With less cruise ships coming this summer, we will just be watching to see if and where we need to make more cuts.” He pointed out that the Kirk group of companies had already closed the stores Far Away Places, Del Sol 1 and Waterford Wedgwood. Kirk Freeport has also cut at least 10 jobs. “We have to remain optimistic, but be realistic. And as a result, we are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” he said.

Some retailers did enjoy an upsurge in sales that more than rivalled last year’s figures. Berna Thompson Cummins of AL Thompson’s explained that, “sales have been good and we are grateful to the public for their support. I think it’s actually better than last year.” She said the reason she felt this was the case with AL Thompson’s was that “the store is so diversified that when we are lagging in one area, another area tends to balance that out,” adding that she was surprised at how well Christmas items sold, “considering the economy”.

“Building of residential homes is on the rise again and with new hotels being planned, I think things will consistently get better,” she said. AL Thompson’s will be adding a garden centre by the end of next year, in addition to rolling out a new distribution centre for appliances.

Retailers such as Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits reported similarly encouraging news with regard to the sale of liquor in their stores across Grand Cayman during the Christmas.

Retail division manager for the chain of liquor stores, Paul McLaughlin said: “The first couple of weeks in December were sluggish and I think the recession was a factor but the last week and a half before Christmas turned out, bringing us closer to last year’s figures. Folks definitely left it to the last minute.”

McLaughlin said what contributed to last year being really busy was the rush of people trying to buy liquor before the duty increase that were introduced as a revenue increasing measure for the government. He added that this year that was not a factor and the stores still managed to perform to near that level of sales.

“We are not breaking records but it was a good year and the Christmas quarter held its own,” he said.

Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits opened a new store in the East End district in October and another store is scheduled to open late next year in the district of West Bay.  “The money we had to spend we have spent wisely on marketing and people know what to expect with Jacques Scott,” McLaughlin said.

Prentice Panton of Reflections reported that their locations’ output over the Christmas was about the same as last year’s.

“We were down on our liquor sales, clothing sales were up and food was about even, so everything kind of evened out to bring us in the region of where we were last year,” he said. Panton explained that the stores added fireworks and small appliances and video games to their shelves this year and everything came together to make the difference in the bottom line. He pointed out that the day after Thanksgiving was “phenomenal” and was the best one day sale of the year.

“People started shopping earlier and some things actually ran out of stock, so we could have sold more but we did not anticipate the kind of demand we had.”

In the New Year Panton said Reflections would be seeking to open more liquor stores, as well as add new clothing and electronic lines.

At popular clothing retailers Arabus, owner Edward Solomon said: “We’ve posted similar sales to last year but just a little down from that.” He added that 2010 was not a banner year for revenue but from his observation of customers buying habits throughout the Christmas, despite the level of unemployment and the world wide recession, he felt the economy was on an upswing.

“I was open on Tuesday, 28 December and sales were pretty good too. We are also looking forward to finishing the week strong and going into 2011 with positive vibrations,” said Solomon.