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Hamilton retailers hit by quiet, as people hunker down during virus surge

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All quiet: Hamilton retailers were hearing crickets yesterday afternoon (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Hamilton retailers were feeling the quiet yesterday (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

With the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, local retailers have been ordered to limit the number of customers, keeping things at 20 per cent capacity.

But several entrepreneurs told The Royal Gazette yesterday, with so many people working and learning remotely again, they were far from full.

“Things have been dead,” said Lynn Brown, manager of the Island Shop on Queen Street.

She said they were still feeling the impact of the lockdown a year ago. She said that while they opened kerbside pick-up in April and fully opened in May, they are still operating on reduced hours and staff.

Miriam Kaye, who runs the Bermuda Book Store on Queen Street with her sister Hannah Wilmott, said that while a few customers had wandered in yesterday, sales were definitely down this week. Ms Kaye had spent most of the day cleaning and disinfecting.

“I don’t think the shop has ever looked so tidy,” she joked.

The busiest place in town was the Covid-19 testing centre at the Perot Post Office on Queen Street.

“When I came back from lunch the line was around the block,” Ms Kaye said. “People were lined up like a row of ants.”

She said a year ago there was panic buying before Bermuda went into lockdown, but the uptick this time had happened too quickly for that.

The Bermuda Bookstore was still doing kerbside drop-offs if customers wanted to call and pay ahead of time.

“We are still able to do special orders and our shipments are still coming in,” Ms Kaye said. “So we have a steady flow of stock.”

One store that did have a line, at times, was Gorhams Ltd on St John’s Road in Pembroke.

Gorhams general manager Andrew Mackay said they were now limited to 40 customers in the store at one time.

“We are letting one customer in as one customer goes out,” Mr Mackay said. “I’d rather have people line-up outside where air is circulating than indoors. We are trying to keep customers moving through the store instead of lingering, which is a concern.”

But he said people were not being rushed.

Of the recent outbreak of Covid-19, Mr Mackay said: “I feel frustrated that people are continuing to break the rules a year later. If you break the rules you pay the price.”

Meanwhile, Seth Stutzman, president of the MarketPlace, said their teams were responding “exceptionally well”.

“We are fortunate to have an amazing group of individuals as associates – a huge thank you to them,” Mr Stutzman said. “With the capacity limitations, we are encouraging customers to shop alone when possible, continue to wear a mask, sanitise hands on entry into stores and utilise our grocery pick-up and delivery service, for a safer shopping experience. ​”

He said they were not seeing long lines outside the store, but they were seeing customers shop more cautiously.

“We are not seeing panic buying or the same surge in shopping as we did in March and April 2020,” he said. “However, there is an expected increase due to Good Friday and Easter Sunday holidays, either way we are well stocked and prepared to meet demand.”

But Fraser Hunt, manager of gift and souvenir store Flying Colours, on Queen Street, said that while things were slower this week, he was staying optimistic.

“There are less people coming to town,” he said. “There are a lot of families on school holidays or in quarantine at home. But there seems to still be visitors on island who have come for spring break or come to visit family. There is definitely a pulse. There are people around.”

When he spoke to The Royal Gazette on Tuesday afternoon there were five customers in the store. He is allowed to have 15 on each floor.

“We are not being impacted negatively by the 20 per cent capacity,” he said.

He was confident the current increase would be a “blip”.

“We are doing a great job rolling out the vaccine,” he said. “On a small island, some people are going to contract Covid-19. I am hopeful that in two or three months things will be looking much better. I think we are going to have a good summer. We are going to get through this.”

But he said he really felt bad for local restaurants.

“I went to my usual coffee shop, which is normally hustling and bustling at lunch time,” he said. “There was no one in there. The staff were just shaking their heads.”

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Published March 31, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 01, 2021 at 12:12 pm)

Hamilton retailers hit by quiet, as people hunker down during virus surge

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