Street vendors struggle amid extra competition

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By Adia Wynter

Local vendors who ply their trade on city streets are feeling the pinch amid an abundance of extra competition as residents battle to combat Covid-induced financial losses.

Some who spoke to Observer on Thursday said too many people had turned to selling fresh produce and handmade products, exacerbating their hardship.

“Things are very slow. There are too many sellers and not enough buyers. Everybody is trying to do the same thing,” said one woman who sells homemade ice pops.

The stress of the job has increased as well, according to many vendors. With the St John’s Development Corporation’s (SJDC) inspectors making their regular rounds and collecting taxes, many feel as though they are spending more than they receive.

Some also expressed disappointment over SJDC’s handling of Covid-19 safety precautions and its ongoing effect on their businesses.

The vendors said they feel as though the preparations made for their return to the streets was inefficient and rushed.

“I’m confused, because I paid the government $10 in order for me to sell. I complied… and then hours after, [the fast food establishment] come and tell me that when they open their place, we can’t operate there,” one man said.

Being made to leave put a strain on him, he explained, as he was unable to sell that day.

Other vendors said they felt cramped in the areas allotted for their daily use.

“Now that they brought us down here, we are on top of one another,” the same seller explained.

He went on, “Vendors are literally breathing in vendors’ faces, along with the buyers that come to shop… Nothing was planned properly.”

SJDC executive director Craig Whyte told Observer the Corporation was striving to balance helping people gain an income with keeping sellers safe.

“We have been trying as best as we can to ensure protocols are followed but it’s a difficult task just based on how a market operates, with the number of people selling.

“We are trying to ensure sanitising is taking place and that people are wearing masks, and we are trying to spread out the operations too,” Whyte explained.

He admitted SJDC had concerns “like every other business trying to ensure protocols are followed”.

“We are not getting 100 percent compliance, that’s a great concern, but we are continuing to do as much as we can. Health is the number one priority. This is something new to all of us,” he added.

City sellers say they’re battling to make ends meet (Photos by Adia Wynter)
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