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Court Street retailers open up on pre-Christmas shopping climate

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Good value: Judith Burgess, of Kids 2000, re-stocks the shelves of her Court Street store front

With 18 months of declining sales reported for Bermuda’s retail sector, The Royal Gazette visited higher-end shops on Court Street for a look at the state of current business, and their strategies for enticing shoppers to north Hamilton.Terry Smith, manager of Court Street clothing store Clara Bows said: “I think business did pretty well up until October. October was a bad month. It’s picked up a lot now with Christmas coming up, but I always have to change the window displays and get in new merchandise.”Running the business himself allows him to keep costs down, he said.“I find it’s best to diversify, to do the most with your space to utilise as many avenues as possible.”Mr Smith praised the Economic Empowerment Zone (EEZ) initiative, which he said “has helped make Court Street a much more positive place.”However, Union Street resident Sherma Simmons, who sat nearby, said: “There’s still not enough done.“We need better street lights, better sidewalks. It hurts business. People don’t like to shop anywhere the lights are bad. We’ve been lobbying for years before the (Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation) showed up, but it’s left to us to promote ourselves.”Mr Smith admitted “the perception of this area is a bad rap. It’s gone up, but there’s always room for improvement.”Across the street, Judith Burgess at the children’s store Kids 2000 said: “I’ve been here 11 years and seen a lot of businesses come and go. This has definitely been one of the slower years. Last year was a little better and going back three years it was fantastic.”At the moment, she said, she stays open about 45 hours a week. “This time of year I’ve got to keep open longer if people are out shopping.”Unable to supply figures for 2010, Ms Burgess said her tactic was sales. She said: “You’ve got to keep the prices down for people.”Doing business with schools and expanding the shop’s range from toddler apparel to graduation dresses has kept the store doing well enough for Ms Burgess to contemplate expanding in the new year.“If I can get 15 hours of part time work during the week, that’ll help with sales.”She added the Corporation of Hamilton has made “good improvements in the last two years, with the lights and the trash cans. But we need more police presence.”Like other Court Street businesses, the Klimaxx Boutique has adapted to low consumer spending by dropping its prices.One of its operators, Melanie Cox, told The Royal Gazette: “Business has been good, but due to the economy right down it has slowed down. So we’ve had to negotiate somewhat and drop our prices even lower.”Ms Cox said the clothes store opened last year but decided to cut prices earlier this year “when we could see people were being laid off.”She said:“People don’t shop the way they used to. We’ve had to go the extra mile and try to be different, and recognise that people are holding onto their money.”Ms Cox said the family-run store decided to close on Monday and Tuesday nights, which are traditionally slow for business.“If a night’s really good we’ll stay open late. We have to stay open as much as possible with Christmas.”She added that the location “still puts a dent in my business” because Court Street is perceived as dangerous.“A lot of people back off when they hear Court Street because they think crime. But right now in Bermuda there’s crime everywhere. I think Court Street should be advertised more to tourists. A lot of them come to Bermuda and they never even hear about it. It’s a small community with good clubs and bars, and I think it gets put in a shell when it comes to publicity.”Terrilyn Doyle of D&T Bijoux Jewellery said it was only her second year running her Court Street business with her husband, Elroy Doyle.“Business has been pretty slow for a lot of us,” she said.She said construction on the police and court building nearby had reduced traffic.“I’m always trying to get people in with discounts, e-mails, fliers, everything. We don’t want to throw in the towel just yet. This year it feels like people are just not buying. They want things discounted.”She said she and her husband both have full time jobs. “We can’t afford anything like part time help, especially with the state of the economy right now.”Mrs Doyle added: “Christmas gets you through. But January, February, that’s when it’s going to be bad.”l Retail sales plunge, see Business, Page 26

Photo by Mark TatemFresh look: Terry Smith owner of Clara Bows on Court Street redresses one of the manaquins in the shop window, which he does every three days, to keep things looking fresh
Photo by Mark TatemService with a smile: Renee Williams serves shopper Prinzine Bailey at Klimaxx on Court Street