While street vendors in Vieux Fort are complaining that things are hard and their agricultural produce is not selling, their customers are accusing them of making things hard and contributing to their own plight.
According to the vendors, over the years things have been bad, but recently it has gotten worse.
The vendors, many of whom once occupied the Vieux Fort Market, took it upon themselves to relocate to various parts of the town because of what they described as “very poor sales” in the vicinity of the market. Over the years, many attempts were made by the Vieux-Fort South Constituency Council in collaboration with the police to force the vendors back to the vicinity of the market, but to no avail. Some of those who continued vending near the market rely on their loyal customers to purchase from them.
Over the years, many business houses which were located in various parts of Vieux Fort town, including on lower Clarke Street, Commercial Street and Theodore Street have been relocated to Beanfield. Most commercial activity in Vieux Fort now takes place at Beanfield, where many business houses and government departments have been relocated, and where a branch of the largest supermarket chain on the island, Massy Stores, is located.
According to the shoppers, one of the reasons the vendors are contributing to their own plight is the fact that they now only sell in large quantities, and at a price which is more expensive than Massy Stores, to whom many of them also sell their produce. According to the shoppers, the quality of produce the vendors sell to Massy Stores is much better than those they sell to them. They say because of these reasons they prefer to buy agricultural produce from Massy Stores.
Shoppers in the south have accused the vendors of going home with unsold perishable items, rather than selling them at a cheaper price.
According to the shoppers, when they compare the prices of certain agricultural produce sold by vendors in Vieux Fort with the prices they are sold in Castries, the prices in Castries are cheaper.
In Castries, okra can be bought for as low as $1.00, but in Vieux Fort it is sold at a minimum price of $5.00. Most vendors in Vieux Fort no longer sell dasheen in heaps for $5.00, but rather at a minimum price of $10.00, per heap.
When this reporter asked several street vendors in Vieux Fort whether they are prepared to reduce the quantity of their items in a heap or bag to accommodate persons without enough money to buy them in the quantity they are displayed for sale, the majority said no.
Jermain Ragoonan, one of the few vendors who will accommodate a customer in order to make a sale, said she understands the situation of some customers.
“I know there are vendors who will not take out anything from their heap to sell it cheaper, but if I have to do so to make a sale, I will,” Jermain Ragoonan, who has been a street vendor in Vieux Fort for many years, said.
Ella Avril, another street vendor said: “The vendors themselves are causing things to be hard. They sell their produce too expensive,” adding that they sell the same produce cheaper to Massy Stores.
Commenting on her sales, she said things are bad.
Ambrosia Victorin, another vendor lamented: “Things are bad, bad, bad… It can’t be worst.”
She opined that the relocation of a local bank which was located a few metres from where she plies her trade, to Beanfield, also contributed to the current state of affairs. She expressed that it was time for a proper market to be constructed in Vieux-Fort, as what obtained was not fit for vending.
“Things are hard,” she said. “It’s not our fault for selling our produce so…”