Chamber president concerned about impact if food store closes

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March 27, 2012

Unemployment numbers need to be reduced and not increased, noted Winston Rolle, chairman and CEO of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). His comment comes as rumors continue to swirl that the City Market food store chain, owned by Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL), could be closing its doors by the end of the week."Any business closure is not a good sign, and obviously the persons that are employed by that organization will be negatively impacted. We need to be reducing the unemployment number and not increasing it, so that's obviously a concern for us,"Rolle explained.If the stores do close, Rolle believes it would be a sad day for The Bahamas.

"They were strategically located in areas where they were accessible by a number of major populated areas. To lose them is not only an inconvenience, but also because of the fact that it has had such a long history in these communities,"he said.

"Besides selling food items, the organization offered other things like a scholarship program that was embraced by many Bahamians. So I am sure that will very much be missed."

Despite Robin Hood's abrupt closure of its flagship store on Tonique Williams-Darling Highway last month, and City Market's fate hanging in the balance, Rolle doesn't believe that this is a trend, particularly with the success of Super Value and Abaco Markets.

"If you take a look at what has been happening with Super Value, where they have been reporting growth in a number of areas, as well as the opening of Abaco Markets'new location, I do not think that it's a trend. I just think those stores suffered some misfortune that they couldn't overcome," Rolle noted.

Rolle pointed out how the supermarket chain faced major changes that may have led to financial hardship."It went from being a subsidiary of Winn Dixie, and then it was locally owned. The dynamics changed under the local ownership and not only from the management side but from the logistics side," he added.

"We are talking about a completely new set of suppliers, relationships that needed to be established. A lot of things have changed and the question is, were the new owners prepared to deal with these variables?"

He continued: "There were some talks about them being acquired and there were hopes that would happen, and there is a possibility for that to happen. However, if they are acquired I hope those long time employees will be able to transition to the new organization and not be unemployed."

It was revealed last week by senior members of staff that most employees have been placed on a two-day work week.

Ranfurly Turnquest, the store's chief inventory control auditor, shared with Guardian Business his concern about outstanding monies owed to staff, including severance packages, vacations and the pension fund.

Financial and legal woes are not new to the supermarket chain, as the Police Staff Association (PSA) filed legal action against the firm, but later dropped the action.

It was the second time the struggling supermarket chain had pending legal action against it in recent months. A U.S.-based pork and beef supplier filed legal action against BSL in the United States District Court of Southern Florida, Miami Division. In that case, BSL allegedly owed that company more than $81,000.

Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian

News date : 03/27/2012    Category : Business, Nassau Guardian Stories

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