More Blue on the Street

Over the last few years, a great number of our premier jewelry stores grabbed headlines, and as early as 2012, following an unwelcome visit of low-lives at Paseo Herencia, the jewelers got together and formed an association.

Together they visited the then MinJust and demanded more Police presence in plain view in the downtown Oranjestad area and on Palm Beach.

They offered free-of-charge locations, if the Police takes over and builds out a mini-station with tinted windows and a patrol car parked outside, as deterrent, constant, regardless of cruise ship visits, and they impressed upon MinJust the urgency of their plea, then….nothing happened.

The jewelers explained that they would like to continue doing business in the traditionally relaxed Aruban style, with their doors open and minimal security. They did not want to barricade themselves behind closed doors, with panic buttons and armed guards and explained to the officials that sure, it will deter low-lives, BUT it will also keep customers away.

They became a closely-knit association, alerting each other of suspicious activity, and sharing information, but slowly over time, many of them got hit, some by repeat offenders, who get out of jail and return to crime.

Security is not their only concern. The Aruba Tourism Authority has in the past years promoted different experiences among visitors, yoga, more yoga, vegan food, extreme adventures, and nothing about shopping. While Duty Free Shopping and Gaming, were the early drivers of tourism in Aruba, both were abandoned in favor of Wellness and whatever the latest trend is.

Aruba is no longer considered a shopping-destination, the Jewelers lament, because it is not promoted that way, and many cruise passengers opt to spend their shopping dollars on other islands, though Aruba still offers excellent value.

GOA has not been kind to the jewelers, either. Luxury goods, only enjoy a very low profit margin, and with the recent tax increases the jewelers were made to absorb, they stand a much higher risk that a decline in sales will erase all profits, and result in losses, no matter how clever the company’s pricing strategies are and how well they control costs.

GOA doesn’t understand the intricacies of our business, they say, and with the upcoming ADDITIONAL BBO at the point of entry, their 26 members are worried about the future: Added taxes, climbing insurance rates, cruise ship customers who shop for jewelry on other islands, and land visitors, who never venture into town, because of parking difficulties.

On the subject of parking difficulties: The jewelers visited AruParking one year ago. Offered to buy 20 yellow membership spots in a prime waterfront location to allow their customers free parking. The idea was immediately approved and then….nothing happened.

All this is not new. Prior to the Jewelers Association, Aruba had an active Aruba Luxury Retail Association, ALRA, whose president spend considerable effort and time on lobbying with GOA in an effort to help the jewelers mitigate negative forces, but to no avail.

Having explained and explained then…. nothing happened.

So, most luxury retailers ‘got more efficient.’ Meaning they let go of people, and now operate less hours, and some said adios to their locations, kissing our dream of becoming the Mecca of Luxury Goods Shopping in the Caribbean, goodbye

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January 23, 2020
Rona Coster