The Christmas Season Is Upon Us! Spend Wisely!

The year 2002 is racing to its end. Soon it will be Christmas Day. Will it be a blue Christmas or will you be singing the blues? I am tempted to say that this year has seen the fastest movement of time I have ever experienced. There seems to be less than 24 hours in a day.

This has been a year when the end comes, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the New Year for a town around, especially in their economic fortunes. As the Christmas season approaches, we are being kept busy with the furniture, appliances, supermarket and retail operators whose luring of consumers with their many prizes from big money to food and hampers cannot go unnoticed.

Thank God for competition. Consumers now have choices and competitive prices. Unfortunate for the telecommunications sector, it is Cable and Wireless all the way to the poles as the lone horse in the race. Consumers would have been much happier to have the other companies in the race but that is not to be, at least for the year 2002.

There is a special feeling about Christmas and as the date approaches, the citizens of our dear St. Lucia will come out to celebrate, money or no money. It is the parties, it is the shopping, it is hire purchases, all the ingredients that go into Christmas.

The bargain stores will have their share of business as they are no longer targeting the poor but everyone is finding their way to these bargain stores. It is interesting to hear the advertisements between the major competitors alluded to earlier in this paragraph. "We do not sell inferior products, we sell good products cheaper." That is an interesting claim.

While the bigger players are battling it out, a local Entrepreneur is creating a real stir with the Blessing Store. For me they are the real winners with their $3.00 and $20.00 store. One price throughout the store. If you are at the $3.00 store every item is priced at $3.00. It is the same for the $20.00 store. Actually, the initial price was $2.00 at the current $3.00 store - what a blessing indeed. This demonstrates the fact that our local business people can rise to the challenge. Don't worry too much, soon we will have $1 stores as in the US and not US$1 but EC$1 that is what competition is all about.

Then there is the Liquidation Center where you can name your price. You ain't see nothing yet. The first second hand boutique and a permanent Auction House offering every consumer item is in the making for early 2003. Don’t be afraid to venture out and respond to the market place. Price is everything and those who find new ways of relating to price will be the big winners.

While all these innovative methods are coming to the fore, I am very concerned that St. Lucia has arrived at the point where it is becoming a Miami or Chinatown in New York. Many unsuspecting consumers, who do not have negotiating skills will pay above normal prices. Many of the stores in the City of Castries are indulging in a Peter pay for Paul business. If you have the negotiating skill you win, if you don’t, you loose. I am not ashamed to confess that I was taken for a ride. I was press to purchase two plastic chairs, as you are aware some can only take the weight of children, not adults, so I was looking for sturdy ones. I was particularly looking for a type which a friend of mine bought a few weeks before. It was so popular that at the store where he bought his, they were sold out. So there it was after checking several other stores including a branch store, I finally found a retailer who had the said chair at $39.95. I thought I had negotiating skills but was disappointed. After my best effort I became frustrated but the need for the chairs left me with no other option than to make the purchase. I ended up paying $35.00 instead of the $39.95, but based on the price of $25.00 which my friend paid I ended up losing $20.00 on the purchase of the two chairs. This is a factory worker's day pay.

In these hard, guava season, this kind of exploitation should not be allowed. The time has come where it is necessary to undertake consumer price surveys and lead consumers to the sources that offer real prices. This state of affairs should not be allowed to continue.

To add insult to injury, I was giving a friend a lift a few weeks later and he had bought a TV from a Hire Purchase Retailer earlier which was in the car. We parked in front of the store where I bought my plastic chairs, out came a young man, he enquired in a hurry, how much you paid for that; the gentle man said $795.00, he said, we have it here for $550.00. I am sure, if I walked off the road, the price would not have been $550.00. That is the way it is. When cash is paid for products, we must be able to get real prices without having to haggle. We need to get back to the old days where prices were fair and discounts apply to Sales offers at the end of a period only, mostly clearance sales. This is yet another opportunity for a business person to establish a Fair Prices Outlet. In the meantime, buyer beware. Christmas is all about shopping. For years now, many persons have argued against the commercialization of Christmas with the loss of the real celebration, the Birth of Jesus.

Love is always in the air at Christmas. It is a very special time of year for families. Kids are on their best behaviour at this time, expecting Santa Claus to reward them.
Looking back over the past months, the year 2002 might not have been a good one for many. Regardless of whatever circumstance, we find ourselves, give love a try. Those who are fortunate to be blessed in a manner that they could have done well during the year, it would be great if they can look around and seek to share and care for the less fortunate in their midst. Help to bring joy to your fellowmen so there could be peace on earth and goodwill among men.

Keep the faith! God is in charge!
14 December, 2002