Businesses down but still profitable

Three Cayman business owners are working hard to sustain and grow their businesses and believe they will bounce back stronger than ever.

Marcus Simmonds, VP Tortuga Rum Company, said that although business is down, the company is still profitable.

‘We have had to adjust our costs to maintain profitability as revenues are down,’ he explained. ‘We’re generally a small, family-owned business trying to weather the storm like most.’

The volume of cakes the company makes started to drop in the second quarter of 2008, going from 15,000 cakes a week to 10,000.

But he emphasised that local volumes of cakes being made have not decreased as much as those for the US.

Tortuga has manufacturing outlets in Cayman, Barbados, the Bahamas and Jamaica. Some of the US volume was pulled from those plants.

‘What we believe as a manufacturer here on Island is that there needs to be attention paid to that sector. Although manufacturing is a very small sector on the Island it’s an important one,’ he said.

Tortuga has decreased its staff from 138 people to 108.

About 20 people were laid off in January in Cayman.

‘We did that in preparation for the economic downturn and the signals and shifts in the market we were seeing,’ he said.

Previous to that the company relied on natural attrition – when someone left they would not be replaced.

‘In some sectors of our domestic business we have seen growth,’ he said. ‘So from a local perspective there is some level of buoyancy in the local economy.’

Tortuga has been challenged by its international exposure and within cruise tourism, he said.

Looking at sales of cakes, local demand has not been down as significantly as it has been in the US, he said. Locally they are looking at demand being down 10 per cent to 11 per cent in the cake category of the domestic market.

But Tortuga has seen an upward trend in the sales of spirits, wine and groceries.

‘We should start to see somewhat of a recovery on the US side by the fourth quarter of this year,’ he said. ‘We’re in a very good position to bounce back. The economic downturn has caused us to look inward toward our business and has caused us to look at efficiencies that we would not have looked at before. Because of this we will emerge much stronger than we came into it.’

He expects to see recovery by the first quarter of 2010.

‘Every sector affects us,’ he said. ‘The financial sector has been impacted tremendously by the recession and that affects our business because it means there is less people on-island to buy our products.’

Dolphin Discovery

General Manager of Dolphin Discovery Carlos Moreno said the number of people participating in dolphin swims is increasing. There were more than 4,000 people in the water in June.

But the attraction is below what was expected according to its business plan.

‘It’s not the numbers we first expected in the original business model. We’re 20 per cent below that business case, which was based on having eight dolphins.’

There were only six dolphins at the site.

‘We revised that business plan and now we are only two per cent below the revised business plan,’ he said.

Last month the other two dolphins arrived.

‘We brought in two more dolphins because we’ve been successful in increasing our numbers in the water month over month,’ he said.

Dolphin Discovery closed on Sundays in June to alleviate overtime, but requests for Sunday swims from hotel concierges forced them to reopen.

‘We cannot say no to tourists,’ said Mr. Moreno. ‘We need to train the dolphins whether there’s people there or not so it doesn’t hurt us to open,’ he said.

‘We’re pretty happy. We’re in the black numbers,’ he said.

Deep Blue Divers

At Deep Blue Divers’ owner Nick Buckley said business is down 15 per cent to 20 per cent, but he expected it.

He said the company has tried to do things to remedy the downturn such as using different avenues of advertising.

He said a downturn in the economy is a good time to advertise. ‘You need to attack the market rather than retract,’ he said.

He said his staff is working twice as hard to get business.

The expectation is that September and October will be challenging.

One of the differences now is that clients tend to book at the very last minute when they want to go for a dive.

‘It’s not steady in the book at all,’ he said. ‘And it’s a very competitive market.’

But Mr. Buckley said his business can sustain this downturn. ‘You’re just not making as much money as you used to be,’ he said.

He said that because he is offering more personalised service, his company will survive.

‘I can go the extra mile for customers,’ he said.