Dickinson: no bailout for retailers
It is not the job of the Bermuda Government “to step in and bail out retail”, the Minister of Finance said yesterday.
Curtis Dickinson was speaking during the annual Budget Breakfast panel discussion hosted by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce.
He added that Government had a role to play to support the sector, but could only be part of the solution.
It was later revealed that Mr Dickinson has accepted an invitation from Paula Clarke, the chief executive officer of Gibbons Company, to visit one of Bermuda’s leading retail operations.
The minister’s comments were in response to a written question from the floor asking what more could be done by the Government to support the retail sector, which has seen monthly sales figures decline, year-over-year, in 19 of the last 21 months.
Mr Dickinson said the Government has supported the sector with payroll tax breaks, duty deferrals, and an expansion of items that could be imported duty-free.
But he said the Government was only “one participant” in efforts to support the sector.
Addressing attendees at the breakfast event, Mr Dickinson said: “The other group is all of you. I can’t go into the stores and buy all the goods.
“Retail needs to figure out a way of encouraging more people to occupy their stores.
“We can do a piece of it. At times it feels as though the solution that retailers are looking for is for the Government to step in and bail out retail.
“That isn’t our job. I may be unpopular for saying that.
“It’s interesting that people want Government out of their lives a lot of the time and other times they want to let Government in.
“We’re trying to provide some sort of relief to assist, but we are just one part of the solution.”
He called for a “fundamental rethink of the retail model”.
“It may not be the way it’s always been — people’s buying patterns are changing. And to not take into account people’s changes in behaviour, we run the risk of failing,” he added.
“The idea to tax more of those who use a courier service to bring in goods is not the solution for retail, as far as I’m concerned.
“It is a competitive landscape and people need to adjust to it. Bermuda has a rich history of facing competition head on and dealing with it.”
Afterwards, Ms Clarke said: “The minister plans to visit Gibbons Company to allow him a greater understanding of our retail operation, its employees and the importance of retail in our community.
“What I hope he will gain from this is that he will see first-hand that the retail industry is very advanced in its technology; how streamlined our systems and methodology is; our high level of customer service; how we reach customers; and how we respond to their needs.
“Retail is an essential part of the social fibre of any community, especially Bermuda, and if it fails, it will have an enormous social impact to Bermuda.
“I look forward to welcoming him to Gibbons Company very soon.”
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