CHIEF executive officer of the Home Construction Ltd (HCL) group of companies, Richard Le Blanc, says there is nothing the property management company can do to increase foot traffic at the Trincity Mall.
“We are in a pandemic and there is nothing the HCL Group of companies can do to increase foot traffic at Trincity Mall at this time,” Le Blanc said, in response to concerns raised by tenants of the shopping centre and conveyed to him by Express Business.
Trincity Mall tenants told the publication the mall has become a ghost town and more needs to be done by management to help bring back customers.
“The Prime Minister and the Ministry of the Health have been advising the public to limit their movements in order to decrease the spread of the Covid-19, so it would be irresponsible of us to promote otherwise.”
Le Blanc said these are not normal times and we must all work together as the economy is not going to be the same as five to six years ago.
“On October 24, when the Prime Minister comes back to address the nation, on whether there would be a relaxation of the measures put in place, due to the decrease in Covid positive cases, then the mall management can have a conversation on promotions to attract customers especially with the Christmas season approaching.”
Government acquired CLICO’s direct 30.1 per cent stake in the HCL group in October 2017, in a transaction that reduced the insurance company’s debt to the State for a bailout that occurred ten years ago. The balance of shares in HCL is held by CL Financial.
Speaking on Monday, Le Blanc noted that at this time, safety is paramount over the mighty dollar.
Express Business visited the mall on Saturday and observed that only stores selling necessities attracted patrons.
The clothes and shoe stores only had one to three customers and the patronage at the food court was sparse.
All the storeowners interviewed said they were grateful for the 50 per cent reduction in the Common Area Management charges, that was granted to them by the management. Store owners said they are willing to work with the Home Construction management once they are allowed a hearing to move forward into the Christmas season.
Owner of Bar B Que Station in the food court, Ryan Radhay, said since the pandemic started it has been a nightmare, as revenue levels hit rock bottom for the three months as a result of the lockdown measures.
Radhay explained when in-house dining resumed in June things were picking up and the revenue was starting to go back up but when the Prime Minister announced the rollback measures, resulting in the stoppage of in-house dining, things slowed down again.
“Revenue for me is between 20-25 per cent and I had to decrease my staff, because of this. While I applaud the Government for doing an excellent job in trying to curb the pandemic, not all restaurants should have closed in-house activities, as proper protocols were being adhered to and most restaurants, like myself, have the space to practise social distancing. So the whole industry should not have been broad-brushed.”
Radhay added that he has started deliveries with a food taxi company and is hopeful that will help boost sales as he noted that by 7 p.m. the food court is empty.
The owner of a popular clothing store said with over 20 shops closed at Trincity Mall, it is disenchanting for customers, especially if that store was the main driver for them coming to the mall and buying from other businesses around.
“When the economy reopens fully, the management has to develop strategies in attracting new owners for the shops, as the other tenants would continue to suffer from the low sales. And with RBC and Island Finance Company leaving, it has been a huge loss,” Radhay said.
Another tenant said after Christmas he would be moving out as his sales are 20-25 per cent of what they were last year and he is losing money every month, which cannot be sustained.
“However, it’s a complete turnaround at Grand Bazaar as the foot traffic there is steady and all tenants still occupy their spots. Yes, we know we are in a pandemic but conversing with the owners and listening to the problems we are encountering would go a long way,” the owner added.
In addition, a storeowner said while business has slowed tremendously, being innovative is necessary in these times.
“I have lowered my prices and started marketing on social media. Now is not a time to feel sorry for oneself; its about surviving through this pandemic. We formed an association with over 100 tenants and it’s currently in the process of registering, so by the end of the month it would be registered, which will show management we are serious in bringing back the mall to where it was once at,” the tenant added.
Last week Grand Bazaar’s property owner, the ANSA McAL conglomerate said it took a conscious decision at the onset of the pandemic to maintain the tenants at Grand Bazaar.
In an Express Business article last week, ANSA McAL chief executive, Anthony Sabga III said: “We did quite a bit to support our tenants to help keep them going through this tough period for retail in T&T and the world.
“We decided that we would carry some of the burdens of the Covid pandemic. By and large, we are doing what we need to do for our customers at Grand Bazaar, who are the tenants there,” said Sabga.