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Food store chains change store hours for holidays

The two largest food store chains in The Bahamas are pursuing divergent strategies in terms of the best store hours to maximize customer reach in a cost-effective manner.

City Market is going the way of the Walmart stores, that many Bahamians shop in until the wee hours in South Florida, while Super Value plans to keep store hours flexible during the Christmas season, but see a permanent 24-hour move as ultimately detrimental to its business.

“We’ll be open late all this week, as long as the public keeps coming we’ll stay open,”Rupert Roberts, president of Super Value toldGuardian Businessyesterday. He said that Super Value is guaranteeing certain operating hours, but is also being responsive to customers and extending hours as needed on a store-by-store basis.

City Market’s CEO Mark Finlayson toldGuardian Businessin a separate interview that beginning yesterday, four of the chain’s stores would be open for 24-hour shopping, a move that is intended to be a permanent feature. The four stores are the Sea Grapes Shopping Centre store , the Harbour Bay store, and the East Street South(South Beach)and Cable Beach stores. Originally the CEO had announced that 24-hour shopping would be implemented at three of the stores on Monday, December 20th. He said that all the necessary security for the extended hours was not in place on Monday, hence the choice to start yesterday.

Security is a primary concern in any 24-hour shopping operation. One concerned citizen who read about City Market’s 24-hour shopping plans in Monday’sGuardian Businesswas wary about the dangers that could come with late night shopping.

“I’m not against it, it’s a good thing,”the citizen, who identified himself as an ex-police officer with 16 years on the police force said.”I love the concept, but when you look at the repercussions, who is going to protect you when you get home?”He said that security measures in the stores and in the parking lots would not matter when customers got home, and people may have followed them from the store.

“This has been put on as a convenience for people who are in businesses where they would be coming home at this time of morning in any case,”Finlayson said. He added that people with nine-to-five jobs often do not appreciate the”many, many people”in the medical field, at hotels and casinos, institutions like the Bahamas Electricity Corporation(BEC)and other places, who must operate outside of standard business hours.

“You have people who are on call 24 hours a day that make our life work,”Finlayson said.”We need to provide the conveniences for them to be able to live their lives conveniently, like how they do in the United States.”These people, according to Finlayson, would already be aware of the precautions needed for their late night safety.

Super Value has guaranteed its stores will open until 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and will remain open as long as it takes to service their clients. According to Roberts, experience has shown that the stores are’usually dead’by that time on Christmas Eve. He said the stores would open on 7:00 a.m. on Christmas day until noon, except for the Cable Beach and Winton stores which will remain open a little later to 3:00 p.m.

“We don’t want our stores open and no customers in them,”Roberts said.”That would only add to our costs.”He said that too much risk was involved in the extended hours, so he saw no point in extending hours after the holidays.

“The police don’t even want to go out after dark, so customers definitely don’t,”Roberts said.

A relatively new player in the local food store business, Robin Hood, has taken a similar approach to the Super Value chains. Robin Hood’s owner Sandy Schaeffer toldGuardian Business”We will be open until the last person leaves the store.”He was not as absolute about the future, however, simply saying that at present there were no plans for the store to move to 24-hour shopping.

The strategy which will ultimately work best for the local retail giants is yet to be seen.

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