Happy Kids – one of the most utilised vendors for the School Uniform Grant Programme (SUGP) – has so far been unable to provide uniforms in a timely manner this year.
Non-payment by the government for previous vouchers, coupled with a dearth of sales over the past two years, has significantly reduced the company’s revenue intake.
“In the past, we don’t suffer that much because we used to use all the funds from another location because Happy Kids used to be involved in Carnival – a lot of sales from Carnival. For the last two years we’ve had zero sales based on that matter.
“So, no money coming from any other branch to support that particular programme and as you know the government is a little slow on payment, too. We have to take all those things into consideration so that’s what keeps us back a little bit,” explained Elie Saoud, the owner and manager of Happy Kids.
Saoud said the company is still in negotiations with its overseas suppliers, in an attempt to get them to extend a line of credit to the store.
Suppliers include factories situated in New York, Miami, and Indonesia, as well as local suppliers.
“We’re behind by quite a large amount of money because last year we couldn’t make any payment through the Covid,” he said, noting that the money owed is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“They show all support and understanding but we are negotiating with people who are not concerned about our country. They are just business people overseas and we’re trying to persuade them and expand our credit line a little further up and once we get that done, everything will be in place,” he remarked.
Saoud also said that because of Covid, money is coming in slower than usual.
The company continues to rely on its sales and on the commitment of the government to pay for the vouchers on time.
Every year, various vendors sign contracts with the government to participate in an exchange of uniforms for vouchers. The government then pays for the voucher value of each item.
Saoud said the government is trying its best to make payments given the current economic climate, but he is hoping that those payments can come quicker.
In the meantime, their stocks are currently low and the manager said they are still waiting for more items since it is very hard to get stock into the country on time this year.
“We are hoping that by next week, or the week after, something comes up before school opens so we can accept uniform vouchers,” he told Observer.