Food retailer sees no benefit in extra hours


Tribune Business Reporter

One food retailer yesterday said that extending Saturday shopping until 6pm for “essential workers” will only produce losses through driving up costs without the revenue earnings to match.

Atwell Ferguson, Golden Gates Supermarket’s general manager, told Tribune Business that the Prime Minister’s decision to extend food store openings by two hours until 7pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 1pm to 6pm on Saturday, would not have a positive impact on his business.

“To me it isn’t going to make any difference. All it does is that the same people will be coming at the end. We have a lot of customers that come last minute,” he explained.

“If we close 5pm, they are coming at 5pm. If we close 7pm then they are coming 7pm. So all they do is that they watch television, and when they see it’s time coming up on them then they rush to the shop. You can say the shop closes at 12am and people would rush in at 12am.”

Mr Ferguson added: “I don’t understand why the prime minister stretched the time, especially for the essential workers on Saturday. That 1pm was OK; they don’t need that much time. How much essential workers do we have? If we can do the whole island from 7am to 7pm, don’t you think we can do the essential workers from 7am to 1pm?

“For the essential workers for Saturday you don’t need to stretch it out too long, because all it will have is my workers just sitting here doing nothing. That 7am to 1pm was fine. On the regular days, I think the 5pm stretch was the perfect time.

“Now if you had the other stores open on Saturday, like the automotive stores and other places, then you can stretch the Saturday shopping out to 8pm to give them a chance to come in and get a chance to shop, but now that most people are home and only the food store people being out, I think 5pm was the perfect time.”

Mr Ferguson said he is wasting money on Saturday in anticipation of persons who may not show up because he has to pay staff salaries, plus utilities and security. However, the government extended the shopping hours to prevent long queues outside food stores and maintain social distancing requirements to aid the COVID-19 fight.

However, Cyril Carey, general manager of Kenneth’s Food Store on Prince Charles Drive, said: “The extension is fine for me. From what I have seen, it’s a choice. You don’t have to stay open until 6pm. Right now you don’t even have to stay open until 7pm on weekdays.”

Bradley Rolle, Centreville Food Market’s assistant manager, said: “We will see how the extension on the regular shopping days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday will work out. We hope people won’t be rushing and cramming the stores as they would have ample time to shop until 7pm.

“I also noted that Rupert Roberts [Super Value] had a sign up from Saturday, and he the correct time for food stores to be opened up on Saturday. He had 6pm, but what I saw coming from the Prime Minister’s Office as 5pm. So how is Rupert Roberts having the information before the prime minister announced it on Sunday?”

Mr Rolle continued: “It was 1pm, then it changed to 5pm and it is now 6pm on Saturday. So this gives my customers some extra time to shop, hopefully, and what they should do for food stores is that we won’t have that mad rush of people trying to cram the stores now because they have an extra couple of hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“So that should work, and of course we have time to re-stock our shelves as I see they have given us an extra day for that, too, on Sunday, so we can now stock the shelves on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Hopefully, this process should make it a little easier and once people have the money they can shop and they will be alright.”