Several decades ago, ‘Ben Dung’, located in the Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, was the place many people would go to get some of the latest name brand and fashionable clothing at reasonable prices.
Several stalls decked with colourful clothing for men, women and children offered top quality clothing for as little as fifty Jamaican dollars.
Persons could carry at least two thousand dollars to shop and leave with a large quantity of clothing and shoes. But now, things have changed, as that is no longer possible as two thousand dollars can barely purchase a lone item.
‘Ben Dung’ vendors mostly operated from Thursday to Saturday of each week to meet the shoppers’ need.
Many of the vendors are now complaining that business is not the same as before, due to the many cheap Chinese-made clothing that is now being sold on the streets.
Sharon Carty, who has been operating from the market for over 18 years, shared:
“First time business was nice, but now, people can hardly come here again to shop; but every week the Parish Council people come to collect rent, but there is no business here; the place needs to be upgraded and some more promotions put in place to make people know we are still here.
We sell clothing for as little as 50 dollars and things are still slow.”
When asked if people thought the clothes are mainly ‘dead lef’ clothing’, she was quick to rubbish those claims, as she said she has places in the USA where she goes to purchase her clothing.
Another vendor, Paulette Lewis, said: “Business is up and down so far,” but if she makes a thousand dollars, she is OK. “I give thanks for what I make here on a daily basis, I don’t give people money to put down, so, I have to be grateful for whoever comes to shop. I am here 21 years and still surviving. I know these times are slow, so I wait until its November, December time, when things pick up.”
She then showed us some of the name brand shoes she has for sale on her stall.
Another vendor, who wished not to be named, said, “The sidewalk needs to be clear so that the people can come into the market and shop. People are stopping on the street so we are lost. It’s the tradition people who know about Ben Dung who keep coming here to shop. Not because we are cheap, we also sell name brand clothing and shoes,” she said.