It’s now the second week of December and the Christmas shopping season is well under way – at least in most of the Christian world.
For Cayman residents, a trek into downtown George Town after work will reveal what many would consider an oddity in the month of December; nearly all of the shops are closed.
By 5pm the cruise ships have all left, so there are few tourists looking to shop. But what about the residents, who must wait until the third week of December for later store hours to Christmas shop in town, unless they want to fight heavy Saturday traffic and deal with crowded shops.
Some residents try to squeeze in a little shopping on their lunch break from work, eating on the run and fighting the cruise ship crowds. Why should residents have to live like this?
Traditionally, there was little reason for shops to stay open late. The population was small and the work day less stringent. Taking a two-hour lunch or of the afternoon off to shop was no big deal.
Times have changed here in Cayman. Besides a larger population, we now have thousands of cruise ship passengers in town nearly every day.
Also, with Cayman competing against a global market in the financial and tourism industries, and with our post-Hurricane Ivan economic challenges, there’s little time or permission for most of us to take long lunches.
It would be handy if the shops in town could stay open to at least 6pm, to allow residents a chance to shop, not only during the holiday season, but all year round.
While the United States bucked the trend of having shops close early on week nights decades ago, the benefits of late night shopping have now been embraced in much of Europe as well.
In some places, it only happens one night a week – say on a Thursday – but at least people are given a chance outside of Saturday to shop. Of course, many places in Europe also allow Sunday shopping, something which is prohibited here.
A shopping night once a week here would not only allow residents a chance to shop, it will help revitalise George Town as an activity centre, bringing people into the restaurants and perhaps spurring some new ventures to open.
Right now, George Town after dark is pretty much just dark, and that’s no way for the capital of this country to be.