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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 1, 2023


Several downtown businesses are readjusting hours in order to cope with what many say are a decreasing number of shoppers.
Kathy Peterson, president of the Leather Shop Inc., said floundering sales have forced the company to shorten store hours and place its 24 employees on four-day week schedules.
"We have so few people coming in the store that people are working four-day weeks instead of five," she said. "It means real hardship for my employees but we just can't afford it. There are days in this store when we do not gross as much as our pay-roll."
The Leather Shop on the north side of Main Street will maintain its 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday schedule but Coach, Sargasso, Fendi and Tumi – which are under the same south side Main Street umbrella — will open at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.
"On Saturdays we find that even though there are no cruise ships, there are a lot of local customers that come by," Peterson said.
Peterson said business this year is "miserable" compared to last year. A recent proposal by Sen. Gregory Bennerson to impose an 8 percent sales tax in the territory would virtually kill business, she said.
"Not only are there fewer people around but the people who are here aren't spending money," she said.
Peterson attributed this to a number of factors, particularly that cruises are being sold as all-inclusive vacations.
"I think people are going other places besides St. Thomas and I think that if they are on a cruise, they are offered a lot more to do and a lot more ways to spend money," she said.
Both Peterson and Janelle Zachman, owner and manager of Going Seanile, agree that the changing nature of the cruise ship industry is effecting business locally.
"We are not just a shopping destination anymore, we are a beach destination for cruise ships," Zachman said.
Cruise ship passengers don't come to St. Thomas to linger in the Main Street stores as they used to, she said.
Zachman believes today's passengers come for island tours, snorkeling, scuba diving and a host of other activities -– one of which includes maybe an hour or so of shopping -– before their ships depart.
However, Zachman said she is optimistic because she is "not doing that bad" given the number of hotel tourists who frequent her store.
"I don't think we should have anything to complain about," she said. "We just need to reorganize our business."
Zachman believes that in addition to not being "overinventoried" for the summer, stores need to modify their businesses in order to meet the demands and keep up with the competition stemming from retailers on other islands.
Linda Meyers, a manager at Diamonds International, said their stores will open at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. but will continue to close at 5 p.m. seven days a week.
"We have already made minor adjustments but all of our stores are open every day," Meyers said. "Historically we have made minor adjustments in the summer."
An employee at A.H. Riise Gifts and Liquor said that a memo was circulated stating that the store will close its doors at 3 p.m. on the days there are no ships scheduled throughout the remainder of June. Filippo Cassinelli, Riise vice president, could not be reached for comment.

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