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BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JUNE 29 • 2017
CEO, Rahael Hold-
ings Ltd (RHL)
Group of Compa-
nies, believes that
despite the reces-
sion that the country is in, once
businesses offer quality products
and services, consumers will spend
"That is what entrepreneurs and
businessmen do. They take risks
when they do a new business. How-
ever, we are of the belief if we do a
quality product that my tenants will
attract customers who are part of
the community in the surrounding
area. These customers will want to
go somewhere that is of high quality,
has proper parking facilities, proper
security and proper amenities. In this
way they can feel comfortable and
safe and will want to go to that plaza,"
he told the Business Guardian last
Friday by phone.
In May, home goods store, the
Dwellings Group opened its doors
at the Heartland Plaza.
Managing director Luis Carrillo
was joined by his wife and business
partner Gael Alluard at the opening
and spoke about how excited they
were to be expanding.
The Dwellings Group is an interna-
tional retailer of contemporary home
furnishings, house wares, baby and
Rahael said that the Heartland
Plaza is already fully tenanted.
"Even if we are going through a
recession, the Heartland Plaza is
100 per cent tenanted. We have no
vacancies left. It is full. The plaza
can accommodate about 20 tenants.
One is already open and most of the
other tenants are already renovat-
ing. They are putting in their light
fixtures, flooring and other things.
From now until the end of July, one
by one they will be opening."
Rahael does not believe that con-
sumers having less disposable in-
come will affect business.
"I am of the belief that the more
products out there, the more people
will want to come out because there
is more variety. If they choose and
where they choose to spend their
money will depend on the quality
of products that a business owner
"As is seen in the Heartland Plaza,
the quality of the product, the fin-
ishing of the mall, the spaciousness,
the height of the ceiling are all very
attractive and it is a welcoming mall.
So people who want to spend their
money will want to come somewhere
that is comfortable and enjoyable to
shop," Rahael said.
He said it is not a niche market that
they are targeting but all walks of life.
"But whoever has whatever level
of disposable income they have will
want to shop in an attractive place.
We believe that Heartland Plaza of-
fers all these things."
He also said that in trying to instill
confidence in the economy, he tries
his best to use local.
"In building we tried to use as
much local content as possible. The
challenge of forex is not a major issue
for us. We want to buy local as much
as possible. So we do not have that
challenge," he said.
Pennywise Stores is another busi-
ness that continues to expand in the
middle of an economic contraction.
Dalvi Paladee, CEO, Pennywise
Stores, spoke to the Business Guard-
ian last Wednesday by phone.
He has survived several recessions
as he started the business 30 years
ago which was in the middle of an-
other economic slump.
They opened their latest store in
May at the Pennywise Plaza in La
He said that when they moved into
Gulf City three years ago they knew
that they would not be permanently
located there and so they have relo-
cated to their own plaza.
This is the eight Pennywise Store
in Trinidad and it occupies 30,000
sq feet of space.
"The plan was to get out because of
the rental. Of course, in the long run
the goal is to give the customer a new
type of store. Right now we employ
about 850 workers. This new plaza
that we own will be opened in July
and we already have tenants coming
in," he said.
Paladee also said that once a busi-
ness owner offers a quality product,
people will be attracted to do busi-
ness and purchase whatever product
or service that is being sold.
"The quality of the plaza that we
built, we wanted to show the poten-
tial tenants what they could get and
the quality of the environment. It
that way they would come in faster."
He recalled starting off in the
Chaguanas market 30 years ago, his
dream was to create a special envi-
ronment for his customers.
"We wanted a first-class atmos-
phere with a mall finish which is what
the newest store is giving."
Despite their expansion mode,
Paladee said they have challenges
like everyone else.
"Lack of access to foreign ex-
change is the only thing keeping us
from moving as fast as we wish. This
month has been the worst. Penny-
wise has even curtailed its buying and
imports since the beginning of June.
This is because of the forex issues.
About 40 per cent of out goods are
imported. Many of our products are
hair care which are imported. We sell
health and beauty products."
He calls Pennywise the "Hard Rock
Café" of health and beauty.
"This means that everyone shops
here. The more money people have,
the more we have to offer. Howev-
er, the less money people have they
could also buy more at Pennywise
because we cater for everyone, from
those with the least money to the
He said they will be expanding in
the future with another mall.
"This should be in the Chaguanas
area. By October there will be less
pressure coming with forex and
things will improve," he said.
Other businesses that have ex-
panded recently include Xtra Foods
which opened a new store last No-
vember in their Xtra Plaza in Chagua-
nas, which is near to the Heartland
In May, fast-food restaurant, Royal
Castle re-opened a renovated store
in Piarco International Airport and
in March opened a new store in C3
Royal Castle's director Sandy
Roopchand told the Business Guard-
ian in May at Piarco, that once cus-
tomers are satisfied they will keep
returning. This will give the business
the platform from which to continue
to upgrade and expand.
Expanding in a recession
Customers focus on quality, value for money business owners say
The economy has been a
recession since 2014. Since
then, thousands of workers
have been thrown on the
breadline, some companies
and businesses have down-
sized and seen a contraction
in their activities.
Despite the challenging
times, there are entrepre-
neurs who are working hard
to keep their businesses
afloat and are also work-
ing assiduously to satisfy
customers and even expand
against all odds.
The entrepreneurial spirit of
T&T is alive and well in the
middle of difficult times and
this affects employment,
boost the economy and aids
in the generation of wealth.
Customers stand outside the newly opened
Pennywise Super Centre, La Romaine.
PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
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