Savalalo flea market loses more vendors

Close to half of the Savalalo flea market’s 270 small business owners have moved out due to continuous flood early this year and inability to generate income.

The market manager Alo Neti Tupai told the Samoa Observer that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt throughout the economy and is also affecting small business owners who are their main clients.

He said the most affected are the owners of small businesses such as handicraft, sewing and tailoring businesses, barbershops and cafés.

A lot of these businesses also have overseas business partners, whom they rely on to export their products, but Mr Tupai said with the international border closure they have only been able to sell to local customers.

The loss of the small business owners is also expected to impact Savalalo flea market owner, Samoa Land Corporation. 

Mr Tupai said the most profitable times for the corporation is during public holidays such as Easter, the Teuila Festival, Independence celebrations in June and the celebration of Mother’s and Father’s Days as well as White Sunday.

But the income generated during those public holidays aren’t feasible this year, as he says close to 50 per cent of the 270 small businesses that rent the blocks at the market have abandoned their businesses, due to flooding in January and February this year as well as dwindling income.

He said each block has different prices of $144 and $208 monthly or $6, $8 and $10 per day depending on the location of their business in the flea market and the condition of the tent that they use.

According to estimates, Mr Tupai said the market at one point had 500 vendors whose income trickled down to one thousand families who directly relied on them.

The lowest charge rate to rent a small shop is $400. But as the Stimulus Package from the Government guaranteed five months of free rental, the initiative was helpful for those with less arrears to pay.

“Within that five months, if a block with the total price of $208 a month then each family can save $1040 for themselves” said Mr Tupai.

“It’s the same with the shops that pay $1,000 a month can even save $5,000 so it was a good call by the Government to take responsibilities and to help the small business owners with their business.”

Mr Tupai said they will relocate to Fugalei around April this year and are waiting for their new building at Sogi to be completed, while hopeful more people will go to the new market.

A small business owner who runs the Nani’s Sewing and didn’t want to be identified said, “it is a struggle for us when COVID-19 lockdown was enforced.”

“We only have one customer come to buy clothes or no customer throughout the whole week,” the business owner said. 

“We have partners overseas to export our design Samoan clothes, mostly in New Zealand and other small islands of the Pacific but now stopped because of the lockdown.

“It was very hard for us to pay our rent and to support our family because there was no income earned from our business.

“When the Government offered five months free, it helped us to pay some late payments and some arrears of our rent.

“I paid $400 a month and it was very expensive for a business without a profit.”

Another shop owner called Lani and barber shop owner Vaelua Rudy Roebeck expressed similar sentiments.

They said the timing of the Government’s funding support to give them five months rent free was perfect as they were able to keep their businesses running.

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