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Docks disruption hits retailers

The crisis on Hamilton’s docks is having a huge impact on Bermuda’s retailers, a company boss said.

Paula Clarke, chief executive officer at Gibbons Company, said: “It’s having a major disruptive effect.”

She added: “We have inventory coming every single week, but at this time of year we have a higher volume of inventory coming to Bermuda.

“For the docks to shut down at this point prevents us from providing the goods that our customers want.”

Ms Clarke was speaking as a shutdown of the docks entered its sixth day.

The Gibbons Company boss said the organisation is awaiting goods shipped in containers aboard the Bermuda Islander, which docked last Thursday, and the Oleander, which arrived on Monday.

She said the shutdown would not impact this week’s trading, including Black Friday, but added: “We turn over inventory very quickly, so goods need to be released from the docks as soon as possible.”

Ms Clarke said retailers are unaware if any progress is being made to resolve the dispute between docks operator, Stevedoring Services, and the Bermuda Industrial Union, which represents dock workers.

She said: “We have not been able to get any information.”

Last night, Jason Hayward, Minister of Labour, referred the dispute between Stevedoring Services and the BIU to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.

Lorraine Shailer, chairwoman of the retail division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way people shop.

Ms Shailer said: “Here in Bermuda this means more people on the island, more people shopping locally and more demand for local product, less people leaving for Black Friday shopping trips, Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas and trips in general and so again more people shopping locally. This has also led to a change in shopping habits and what we want to buy.

“Retail has had to react, adapt and change to accommodate these demands – changing orders, topping up on previous orders, buying into other product, so yes this does mean strikes at the dock will affect us as we need to receive these goods.

“This is a critical selling period for retailers, as always the run up to Christmas is our busiest selling period.

“We are trying to accommodate customers’ demands and change in shopping habits, as well as an increase in demand in general for goods locally, and if these are unable to be taken off the dock or arrive in good time, then this leads to shorter selling times, frustrated customers, leftover stock after the key selling periods.

“Not having the stock ordered specifically for key selling periods, will also affect what promotions we can give our customers, as well as what we have to offer the consumer.”

She added: “We appreciate that every business has challenges during these unprecedented times, but most retailers are dependent on the docks to receive our goods and operate our business efficiently, so we are hoping very much for this to be resolved as quickly as possible.”

John Tomlinson, the president and chief executive officer at BGA Wholesale Distributor, said his company had goods in containers on both the Bermuda Islander and the Oleander.

Mr Tomlinson said: “We import products as near to just-in-time as is reasonable, and disruption at the ports interferes with that.”

Paula Clarke: chief executive officer, Gibbons Company

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Published November 25, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 24, 2020 at 7:32 pm)

Docks disruption hits retailers

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