“Value for Money,” the motto of the Guyana Consumers Association, should be a guiding principle as we enter the shopping season, harbingered by the advent of the Christmas holiday season. The Christmas season is a time when the population becomes relaxed; when there is feasting, of enjoyment of the “Christmas Weather” with its cool trade winds, its pastel sunsets and lengthy blue dusks and its ubiquitous decorations of various shiny tinsel formations and fairy lights and Christmas trees, all dominated by the Christmas colours of red,green, gold and blue. Children look forward to this season with dreamy expectations and the religious are reminded of the touching story of the Lord Jesus’ birth and the ethical teachings of the Christian religion and evergreen Christmas music with its carols and songs permeate the air. Shopping is an important facet of the Christmas season.
The annual Christmas blitzkrieg is mounted on the consumers by the shops and markets: They are invitingly spruced up with colourful decorations and new and attractively packaged merchandise are put on display. These range from haberdashery such as clothes, cloths of various colours and textures and curtains; furniture which appear more comfortable than they actually are and washing machines, toasters, blenders and grinders; groceries from the world over, including special hams, sausages and cheeses of varieties not seen during the year; decorations and ingenious toys.
In confronting this blitzkrieg, we would remind consumers of the following: resist impulsive buying and buy only items you need; compare prices before buying and ensure you are given a proper bill or receipt stating the item bought with price and date clearly marked; check on expiry dates and whether one is being offered seconds, especially in the markets and small shops; always check on the quality of the goods bought as for example on the stitching on garments, and always collect a proper guarantee or warranty on consumer durables such as washing machines and cookers. A warranty on such items should be for at least one year. Many smaller stores have such items priced lower than the recognised shops, but they give a warranty for only a month or three months at most and in any case, they do not have repairmen or spare parts. It is wiser to buy such items from recognised stores.
In Christmas shopping, there is a prejudice which has survived from past times when Guyana did not manufacture anything, that one should always buy foreign goods. Now, there are a number of Guyana-produced goods which are world-class and sell cheaper than their foreign equivalents. We will mention some of the products and producers:
Banks DIH crackers are world-class and their range of sweet biscuits compare with the equivalents imported. Danish cookies packed in a lovely tin have become a favourite Christmas gift, but the beauty of the gift is in the tin rather than the cookies; it may be a pleasant change to give a few cartons of Banks sweet biscuits instead of imported ones. Banks beer is among the best in the Caribbean and there is little difference between the local beer and the foreign imports.
Another Guyanese company that produces goods of world-class quality is the EB Beharry company. Indeed, all their products are ISO licensed and enter difficult markets such as the American market without the custom authorities rejecting their products. Their sweets, all European formulated and wrapped in colourful high-quality wrappings, are world-class. And so are the complete range of their pastas. Their curries and 50 varieties of spices are sought after in foreign markets. And their prices are better than any of the imported equivalents.
Sterling Products is another company that produces goods of the highest quality and their production manager and his team are uncompromising in respect of quality. Their margarine is superior to any other in the local market and is the only margarine that uses a fermentation process. And so are their other products such as soap powders, ice cream, yoghurts and other food products. And their prices are better than their Caribbean equivalents.
One could not speak of world-class local products without mentioning Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL). They produce the best rums globally, and the El Dorado brand has made Guyana famous worldwide. El Dorado rums are sold in all the main international airports, bars and hotels. Their variety of liquors, many of which are renowned brand names bottled under licence, are among Christmas bargains. Their other products,such as their fermented vinegar and Topco juices, are much appreciated. Topco fruit drinks are the only ones in the local market that use fresh fruit. All of DDL products are ISO licensed.
There are several other local products of the highest quality produced by individuals or small companies. Pomeroon coconut oil, quite nicely packed in plastic bottles, is prefered to olive oil by many, both locally and abroad, and has regained its status as the main and prefered cooking oil. Locally produced honey is now preferred over foreign honey because they are pure, fresh and not diluted with various substances as foreign imports are. The market is almost completely inundated with clothes imports, mostly from East Asia, but there are still a few tailors who make pyjamas, shirts, and underwear; the locally produced clothes are better stitched and the parts stitched together broader. Alim Shah’s in Regent Street was one such store which assisted local tailors.
At this shopping season, consumers would find it profitable to be guided by the motto “Value for money,” by buying local.