E-Commerce in Trinidad & Tobago

Local online stores growing in number. Where are the shoppers? (last updated Jan 2020)

E-Commerce Trinidad & Tobago

Over the last year many new online stores were launched with many more on the way in 2020. The tables have turned now. It's not a lack of online stores, it's a lack of customers.


The COVID-19 pandemic, negative as it is, has had a positive impact on the E-Commerce/online store marketplace in Trinidad & Tobago and has PERMANENTLY changed the face of local online shopping. I will be updating this page soon to reflect the new situation and outlook.


Amazon is 26 years old (birthday: July 5, 1994), and still innovating. E-Commerce in T&T has fortunately moved from the creeping stage that it was stuck in for the past few years and really amped up in 2019. Merchants are not rolling in cash though.

So where are we? Lest you think it’s doom and gloom, I’ll hasten to say here that I’m confident we’re at a good place at last. Actually I’m happy. And if you know me, you know I’ve been following this thing since the get-go, and it’s been having me constantly shaking my head. More like shaking my fist, yelling at this chicken to fly.

Though it haven’t floo yet, it’s off the ground and I think everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, we’re on our way. My regular readers will get my flowery Inglish.


It’s a little gloomy here though. Despite the greater number of online stores, shoppers having been flocking to buy. The 2019 holiday shopping season in general was pretty ho-hum, mostly attributed to the economy, loss of jobs, lack of foreign exchange; the whole economic climate was bad, everyone was feeling the squeeze.

There was not as much hand-wringing that Trinis were shopping online either, I saw a couple of news items where business owners were claiming such, but I think they just needed someone to blame. Trinis were generally not shopping like they used to.

However, when it comes to local online shopping also in general, Trinis are still lukewarm, a bit hesitant and cautious, but farin, they’re hot like fyah. Remember this?

“Madam Speaker, the popularity of online purchases has increased significantly over the past few years. Reducing the demand for these items helps to save on foreign exchange and to assist local industry. There are 31 Courier Companies registered and bonded in Trinidad and Tobago and is estimated that the value of packages cleared by these Courier Companies exceeds $1 billion a year.“
[Colm Imbert- Minister of Finance, Trinidad & Tobago]


Size of online shopping market

I’ve always maintained that the raw numbers don’t matter and I use the example of your neighborhood ‘parlour’ or mini grocery as proof; but just about any business enterprise in your community can prove this point. These businesses are doing just fine in their limited geographic reach. I’m in Princes Town and there are literally thousands of businesses across Trinidad &Tobago I’ll never set foot in and they’re doing fine without my business.

An online store expands your limited physical market of a tiny percentage to a virtual 100%. As we say in Trini, you don’t need no ‘big mats’ to figure this out.

Size of market: raw numbers

The official population of T&T from the last census (2011) stood at 1.3M and as of 2016 it’s 1.4M. This means that 200K men and women don’t care much for TV, but this statistic isn’t important for this article. What’s important are the numbers online which is around 900K but more importanter than that are those online who are working.

I gave up navigating the Central Statistical office (CSO) website as the data for Mid Year Population Estimate by Age and Sex 2005-2019 and Labour Force statistics were inexplicably only via Excel spreadsheet download. I’m sure they’re paying a million a year to a minister’s wife to maintain that site.

Anyway, Facebook reach is a more reliable indicator, and that stands as at 2020, a total figure of 790,000, which is up from 600,000 a few years ago.

Size of market: Value

From the above quote by the Finance Minister, the value of packages cleared by local courier companies was about $1B TT Dollars per year a few years ago. By the end of 2019 that figure may not have changed much given the economic conditions. If it is more, then it would probably be for the items for the President’s House, you know, to bring in the light fixtures, furniture and National Pride.

Size of market: credit card penetration

To shop online requires a credit card so the 790K online population obviously overstates the number. Regardless of the credit card penetration, the value of online purchases outside Trinidad & Tobago is enough of a pie to at least get a piece of, but yet local online stores are not getting it.

And that’s why you shouldn’t think for a second that the lack of credit card penetration is the culprit. If a fraction of the one billion plus is redirected locally, wouldn’t that have a significant impact? So there must be another reason.


Like I said in my opening the number of online stores in Trinidad & Tobago grew remarkably over the past year or so and still growing. E-Commerce is on every company’s strategic plan, all citing ‘the young people’ as the market they’re betting on. And make no mistake, they are correct.

First Atlantic Commerce (FAC) online stores

When First Citizens Bank (FCB) came on board in 2013 and started offering the FAC payment gateway, until then there was only Scotiabank. Today ALL local banks are on board with their version of FAC and they are the ONLY gateway available in Trinidad & Tobago.

I can’t say exactly how many online stores exist, but I can make a rough estimate given the length of time to design and deploy. Given that E-Commerce started crawling in 2013 and the gradual but sustained growth till today, there may be well over 100 sites with FAC by now.

WiPay online stores

WiPay was really a blessing when they came on the scene, finally allowing us to jettison PayPal that was a pain to work. The same concept but for T&T by Trinis; affordable, low barrier to entry, easy to sign-up and deploy, it should have really been a shot in the arm.

Confidence Index of local online stores

This is my term and there is no scientific measure and I’ll say that the yardstick is from zero to Amazon. There isn’t enough online business to properly gauge but feedback on the ground is that Trinis are wary and cautious about shopping form local online stores.


Legislation: The Electronic Transactions Act (2011)

This piece of legislation is only half proclaimed into and the remaining half still languishes to this day. However, a little bird told me that there are still gaping holes in this legislation which is the real reason why it remains untouched.

Government Programs: National E-Commerce Policy

This government, of which I’m no fan, is in the process of establishing a National E-Commerce Policy which I expect is to promote the local online industry. I have been contacted for my insights and I’m doing my part (for what it’s worth) and I’m hopeful (foolish me right?) that something good may come out of it.

Shipping & Delivery: Local, Caribbean, International

Well we can have shipping in T&T as we’re two islands and obviously local delivery. I include Caribbean as all local merchants, especially the larger ones will have their sights (and sites) set on the wider Caribbean market.

Minister says NO to online shopping in Trinidad & Tobago [2016]


7% Online Shopping Tax in effect

This I just don’t get. What a knee-jerk reaction to cure the symptom and not the disease and pretty much proves that this government can’t see the forest for the trees. But they are politicians being politicians so we just have to bear with their acute lack of brains.

C News Live Report on $ spent shopping on US sites per year [2014]