by Zena Henry
After more than 12 years at their Water Street location in one of the most popular parts of Guyana’s capital city, Giftland Officemax is spending its final week in Georgetown before heading over to its new location at the Giftland Mall at Liliendaal on the East Coast of Demerara.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ian Ramdeo, told Demerara Waves Tuesday June 24 that the massive US$24M structure will officially be opened to the public on July 3 one day after the grand opening.
The construction of the mall was not without its challenges after several delays blemished previous opening dates. The last opening was scheduled for May 26 last but in that case fuel tanks for the company’s power plant, which will see the generation of five megawatts of energy, pushed back the announced timing. Giftland will not be powered by Guyana Power and Light (GPL).
The CEO said there were several delays, due partly to international economic turbulence.
“From the very beginning we were accessing financing and there was a crash in the world market and all the plans we had, we had to basically go back to the drawing board.” He said the delivery of the fuel tanks pushed back the project by at least three months while the set up of the power plant itself had been the source of the more recent setbacks. Finally, the power plant is expected to be switched on during Wednesday
There are 120 concessions which includes the food court, clothing stores, banking agencies among others. The concessions are more than 50 percent filled, said the CEO. The July opening will see four of the 16 eateries opening their doors, three stores and eight 3D movie theatres-the latest out of Caribbean cinemas group and the first in South America.
The Water Street outlet employed more than 250 employees while more than 500 employees are expected at the mall. The creation of new jobs is expected to grow fourfold to more than 2,000 when the sprawling complex is fully operational.
While business seems to be looking up for the Giftland investors, the emotional connection with the Water Street location and its environs has grown.
Ramdeo said that the Giftland family as well as the Tiger Bay community with which they share a very good relationship is still coming to grips with the move.
The company has contributed significantly to the community since being on Water Street. They have sponsored sporting events, back-to-school drives as well as Christmas activities among others.
Ramdeo insisted that Giftland will not break ties with the area.
Although the same strong relationship it built with its city neighbours is what it hopes to foster on the coast, Ramdeo said, “We are not replacing Tiger Bay with Liliendaal. To some, Giftland has been the symbol of Water Street. Route 45 minibuses have even changed direction to accommodate persons heading to the shopping store.
Giftland has however outgrown its current location Ramdeo said. “It has for a long time,” he noted. He said the mall was a risk worth taking. It has been an eight-year old idea in the making. The investors hopes to begin reaping returns on their investment within the next six years.
No longer will the Guyana Fire Service worry about the congested state of the store should there be a major blaze.