April 12, 2013
The opening of Shepherd's Mart off Tonique Williams-Darling Highway has been pushed back another month after thieves raided the building's air conditioners. According to Sandy Schaefer, the former principal of Robin Hood, the theft represents a loss of about $100,000. The units were destroyed when the bandits stripped them for copper. This latest report of copper theft comes shortly after Rupert Roberts, the owner of Super Value, and Leslie Miller, an entrepreneur and well-known politician, held a formal press conference calling for a ban on copper exports.
Guardian Business understands that Super Value's Winton location was also robbed just last week when thieves dropped in through the roof. Schaefer told Guardian Business that crime has become a major burden for would-be entrepreneurs in Nassau. "It's a huge issue," he said. "It destroys our business. This incident has placed us back three weeks. We were supposed to open this month, so now it's next month. We have to order more units and have them shipped in." He added that the lack of air conditioning also means the store cannot be stocked with food, which places the supermarket further behind schedule.
Nevertheless, the embattled entrepreneur is pushing through with the revival of his supermarket business after Robin Hood shut its doors in early 2012. To fight crime, the new supermarket plans to integrate CCTV with facial recognition, he added, which should also improve the customer experience. Customers entering the store can be identified by the system, allowing employees to flag them and even recall past orders. Schaefer has reported more than 1,500 job applications for Shepherd's Mart. The location will only hire around 130 full and part-time workers.
"We're still in the process of vetting. It is quite an intense process. It will be done over the next few weeks," according to Schaefer. In addition to jobs, he told Guardian Business that the supermarket's revival will also mean a considerable kick-start for the surrounding community. He insisted that he has "learned a lot" since Robin Hood closed down. "There is nothing like failure to teach you. Obviously some of the things we're being more careful about [like] who we hire and the type of selling we'll be doing. More than before, we'll be focused on opportunistic buying," he explained.
"We will network with international close-out dealers. There is not a day that goes by that there aren't hundreds of offerings, from food, to appliances to perfumes to clothing." Schaefer said he will be doing all of the buying and sourcing himself. He believes this approach improves the variety of products and keeps his overhead low. Noting that customers will "never know what deals are on", he said Bahamians are always looking for bargains on any number of items. Shepherd's Mart will emerge not only as a supermarket, but an all-purpose department store advertising low prices. A second store is supposed to open at Prince Charles Drive at some point this summer.
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