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Clarke: Retailers hit by exodus of families at end of school year

July saw possibly the biggest exodus of people from Bermuda, reflected in the latest retail sales figures which continued to decline for the 39th consecutive month.

That is according to Paula Clarke, chairman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s retail division, who said that many families had decided to leave the Island at the end of the school year and retailers were feeling the pinch as a result.

But she stressed the importance of those residents remaining to reinvest in the economy and ensuring that the dollars they earned stayed in Bermuda.

“Overall the biggest story is that more people have left Bermuda and July perhaps saw the biggest exodus of families,” she said.

Asked if she saw any light at the end of the tunnel as retail sales dropped 8.5 percent by volume during July, Ms Clarke said that the need to educate the public was key to any future recovery.

“Unfortunately I don’t see any end in sight until we bring some awareness to the community as to why we need to continue to reinvest in the Bermuda economy because as dollars leave Bermuda they never return,” she said.

Ms Clarke said that if sales continued to fall they would have a big trickle down effect on the country as a whole from the less goods and containers brought in translating into fewer jobs and ultimately putting Bermuda in danger of losing its status as an attractive domicile for international businesses and tourists.

“I think that overall the trend of the decrease in sales has continued and the majority of that is down to the number of people residing in Bermuda also decreasing,” she said.

“It is disappointing but I would say that the retail sector is working hard to retain the business of the residents it still has going forward.”

Motor vehicle sales plummeted 44.7 percent for the month of July to almost half of the total number of sales recorded a year previous, a fact which Ms Clarke put down to people possibly buying second-hand models instead of from dealerships.

However there were a few positive signs with building material sales up for the first time in two years as new building projects came on line, including the new King Edward VII Memorial Hospital building and the Grand Atlantic development on South Shore Road.

Meanwhile apparel sales also continued to climb for the second month in a row an indicator that those residents left were shopping locally rather than overseas, said Ms Clarke.

In a bid to attract more locals to ‘Buy Bermuda’ the Chamber’s retailers and restaurants have teamed up to host “Bermuda’s Fashion Night Out: Shop, Dine and Unwind” on Friday an evening of shopping and dining out featuring discounted prices, wine tasting, models and music.

Ms Clarke, who has been the driving force behind the event, hopes it will provide a boost to Hamilton’s businesses with late night openings in many of the city’s stores and above all highlight the variety and value for money on offer to residents, particularly compared to products and services bought on the internet.

The awareness campaign will officially launch next month with Ms Clarke keen to emphasise that the duty paid of goods coming into Bermuda that businesses and stores pay is a major contribution to Government’s social security revenue.

She said that the Chamber has events planned to run from November through to Christmas to provide interesting and varied shopping experiences to the customer.

Shrinking population concerns: Paula Clarke, chair of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce Retail Division

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Published September 27, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 27, 2011 at 10:09 am)

Clarke: Retailers hit by exodus of families at end of school year

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