Tough economic times take toll on Expo

| 24/10/2011

(CNS): Small business owners exhibiting at the Chamber of Commerce Business Expo said government bureaucracy and inefficiency, a declining population, as well as the generally depressed market and the end of a particularly slow low season were all obstacles to growth. Increased costs, such as those associated with importing goods, were also putting the squeeze on even the most profitable businesses, owners said at this year’s Expo. Furthermore, a general scarcity of cash was reflected in the drop in the number of businesses exhibiting, though some found innovative solutions to showcasing their products during these tough economic times.

Carol Hay from Cayman Gourmet Pepper Jelly said she was unable, as a small business owner, to pay thecost of even a small booth at the Expo, so she was delighted when PJ Coyle from Precision Print had invited her to join him at his booth and she was happy to attract event-goers with a free sample of her pepper jelly, cheese and biscuits.

“Small companies like mine would love to exhibit at the Expo but it is just too expensive for them. Next year I think the Chamber should have a special area for locally made and grown products,” Hay said. “In Cayman we have a great selection of local grown and made products that would definitely draw people to the Expo.”

Coyle revealed that he had looked at the statistics, which indicated that around half the booth exhibitors at last year’s Expo had not returned this, which showed to him that money was extremely tight. He added that he was happy to offer Hay a place at his booth for free to attract people to his products.

Rod Jefferson, managing director with printers and shippers Post Net, said the traditionally slow season over the summer months had been “pretty rough” and there were not enough people on the island to push up sales. On a positive note, he said that his business was seeing growth signs this month and felt that business was about on track where it was before the slow season hit sales.

David Stephens, from Apex Industries, which sells storm shutters and awnings, said that the slowdown in the economy had meant that people were not spending their cash on items that were not essential. “People see the products they would like but in this present economic climate they are not prepared to pay out,” he said. “Once they see signs of improvement in the economy, I feel they will be more comfortable with spending on items that they like versus what they need.”

The busy season for Apex Industries was opposite to most businesses in Cayman, Stephens said, in that most people looked at buying storm shutters from June to October, during hurricane season, and although sales had been steady, he was expecting a quiet time from November to March.

Another exhibitor said that government bureaucracy and inefficiencies were the main obstacles for their business to overcome and that they were crippling the economy.  “I just wish that government employees would do their jobs in an efficient manner,” the exhibitor added.

One business exhibiting at the Expo that said it had seen positive sales growth was Paradise Coffee, which specialises in a single brewing coffee system. Gary Shepherd from the company said that they were in a unique situation in that their product was so innovative that it was becoming increasingly popular, even within a supressed local market.

But even though sales were growing, increases in freight costs for importing the product, as well as other factors such as the increased commodity cost, changes in weather patterns and crop growth, were all taking their toll on profit margins. Shepherd was confident that should Cayman’s economy return to the same levels of prosperity seen a few years ago, business would again be booming.

The Cayman Pharmacy Group was another company for which business was on the up. Camille Martin, home healthcare advisor & fitter for Professional Pharmacy, explained that the Pharmacy Group was offering personalised counselling on a range of issues, such as diabetes and hormone replacement therapy, and as a result they were able to expand their practice.

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Category: Local Business

Comments (4)

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  1. Mr. Spooner says:

    This should be seen as a sign to the Chamber and government as well.  If they really wanted to help small business, cut the price to have a booth in half till things look to rebound.


    Also, government Trade and Business license are stagerring in costs and description.  Why should a sole proprietor with little employees be paying the same as someone with 50 employees for a license?

    This should be segmented down so that the little man can fall in a T&B license category he can afford to pay.  Remember, there's a lot of other costs of doing business as well!

    Mac and UDP ran the last election based on one of the promises that they would help small business which in turn would help the economy on a whole.  They have failed miserably in both respects and raised costs considerably for those in business for themselves.

    If I was a UDP supporter and business owner, I would feel very let down and disappointed more wasn't done to help small business thrive in this small island.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes, A small booth 8 x 8 is 900KYD. (not many of these) Then set up, staff overtime etc etc. And because it is on weekdays(Thursday set up, Friday show) you have to either close your business to attend or hire temporary staff.

    Not a Cheap venture. Works out at around 64KYD an hour booth time alone! (based on public opening times)


  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it that expensive to have a booth at the expo?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I used to do the show every year but this year give it a miss.

    The costs and times just dont make it worth it for the small business owners. I have seen people walking around handing out business cards and brochures that are not even part of the show.

    If the Government wants to help the ligitimate small business owner then they MUST assist with the enforcement side of the issue and stop these road side stalls from setting up.

    On my T&B it clearly states that I CANNOT sell products outside of my store.

    Driving by Spotts the other day I saw people with stalls selling to the cruise shippers. Who is checking these people for being within the law?

    It bugs me that I pay everything concerning running a business, and yes I even pay Pension, and these back street vendors are getting away scott free.

    Customs and Immigration, you need to get off your buts and do your job. If Caymanians want jobs then we need tobe in the position to offer them, and clearly we cannot the way things are.