Published On: Wed, Dec 5th, 2012

Signs of economic malaise: Landmark store eliminating jobs

WILLEMSTAD – Penha, probably the best known 'brand' of Curaçao downtown, is forced to trim its work force down by 20 percent.

Although this month Penha will open its much longer planned Victoria's Secret store in Punda, the director, Kevin Jonckheer, confirms that business for its branch currently in Curacao is very difficult. The director was last month on neighboring island of Aruba where he was publicly commended by Prime Minister Mike Eman (AVP) for the commitment of the Penha company for the renewing of their store in Oranjestad and the upgrading of the immediate surroundings.

"Yes, that's right," said the 41-year old Jonckheer when asked by the Dutch newspaper Antilliaans Dagblad about the truthfulness of the message about firing twenty employees. “Twenty of the approximately one hundred employees,” confirms the director of the family business that was founded in 1865 and has been partly put on the world map by the striking building on the corner of Handelskade/ Breedestraat in Punda with thereon the date '1708'. In three years the company celebrates its 150th anniversary.

But the facts are currently less attractive, continues Jonckheer. Namely that the turnover in Curacao is significantly reduced, the utility costs (electricity and water) are significantly higher, whereas the social contributions for health and retirement nothing will also go up, otherwise the whole social system will go bankrupt. This has not helped the business and investment climate. Rather, worse. Hence Penha & Sons (Julius L. Penha & Sons) are forced to increase their focus on the surrounding islands. The store has been part of the former Dutch Antilles islands Aruba and Sint Maarten for years now. But Penha is now also located on Grand Cayman; In Georgetown was not long ago a new Penha-shop and MAC Boutique opened. “We have to, because Curacao for what business concerns is less interesting.”

The Sambil plans, a mega-shopping mall in Veeris, where the previous Schotte Cabinet which, especially MFK and MAN, sold as an important result of their policies, will certainly do Punda and Otrobanda (downtown) no good. “With Sambil Penha must likely 'force' another store opening that will bring nothing because of the government. More retail space at constant market turnover means by definition, reduction of profitability by the dilution of sales per square meter. The result: less investment in buildings as the Handelskade.”

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