Small businesses impacted due to no Independence Day celebration in Apia

The impact of not having an Independence Day celebration in Apia has been felt by small businesses who are usually bustling with activity as Samoans make their way around the township every June 1st.

This is the second year that Samoa has not held a national celebration, the likes of which we saw pre-Covid, and instead utilised social media platforms to disseminate speeches from the Head of State, caretaker Prime Minister and footage of the flag-raising ceremony by the Member of the Council of Deputies.

The cancellation of celebrations for the 58th Independence Day in 2020 was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and state of emergency restrictions, while the cancellation of the 59th this year was also attributed to state of emergency restrictions. 

The owners of two small shops in the center of Apia shared with the Samoa Observer how much has changed for them for two consecutive Independence Day public holidays.

Ofa Tavita, 41, of Vailima is a shop keeper for her sister’s small shop named Thailand Shop right next to the Fish Market; she said that no celebrations in Apia affect their shop with no customers to serve.

“These special days in Samoa we always get excited, dream about it and look forward to get more customers and gain a big profit when people come to town to celebrate. Not only the Independence Day but also Teuila Festival and other special days which give us hope to develop and move forward with our business," said Ofa.  

"I remember every year when we normally celebrate Independence Day, schools, government ministries, departments and organizations come to the march and the independence parade and they always buy their sandwiches, snacks, toast, noodles and coffee from us. 

"It was a busy day and we had two food stalls, one here and the other one at Mulinuu where the Cultural Dance and Cultural Song  (Faafiafiaga Faa-le-aganuu) performances are normally held. But sadly, it’s the second year since Samoa put that on hold and it's affecting us with no profit.” 

“I only wish we still continue the parade in the morning and raise our flag then dismiss everyone without doing traditional dance and cultural activities so that we can get some shopping in the morning, but what we have now is just a waste of time. Lucky we made a BBQ for people who drive around with their families to have their own picnic,” added Ofa. 

Don Ulberg, 57, of Tulaele shared the same comment in an interview at his shop at Savalalo. He said “We were hoping to get more benefit on these special days from people who come in town to celebrate Independence Day. But we got here in the morning, nothing, no customers for us. Only securities and employees of other shops that come here to get noodles and smokes," said Don. 

"We hope for these days to grow our businesses, and to help us... we prepared lots of kekepuaa, sandwiches and other food with lemon juice (vaitipolo) to deliver around like many other Independence celebrations before, but it’s all unused and will go to waste.“

"We started our small business in 2002 at Toleafoa premises and it was the backbone for us, for the school fees of my six children. We used money from our small business to pay for my children's education until they get older and finish school. 

"So this is our new location, its a beautiful location close to the main road, but we only get customers late when all the big shops close."

Don said he pays $1000 in rent every month, so to offset the cost, he decided to open late and round the clock to collect more sales.

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