Business

Hi-Lo pumps US$8m into supermarket redesign

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2014    

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DECIDING to renovate Hi-Lo's 14 supermarkets islandwide was not a difficult decision.

"Basically, we have listened to our customers, and we are not comfortable with the feel and look of the stores," Omar Barrientos, Hi-Lo CEO told the Jamaica Observer Monday afternoon. "So we're basically making a large investment, which we expect to be over US$8 million."

In a news release issued last week, Barrientos was quoted as saying that Hi-Lo intends to meet its customers' expectations of "supporting services and facilities that will enable their chosen lifestyle of comfort and convenience".

On Monday, he broke all that down into four simple but very important words — "improving customers' shopping experience".

"The customers are used to our extremely high customer service, good prices and the quality, but we feel like there is a lot to do on the infrastructure part of the business," he told the Business Observer. "So we will be embarking on this remodelling and we'll be doing it while the stores are open."

Work has already started on the supermarket at Manor Park in upper St Andrew, after which the construction team will remodel the Barbican store.

"Barbican will undergo a full remodelling on the outside, including the parking lot, just to make the store look better, improve the customer shopping experience," Barrientos said.

While the entire project will run over the next 2 1/2 years, the new look at Manor Park and Barbican, he said, should be completed by the second quarter of this year, a target that's not impossible, given that the renovation is being done at nights, after the supermarkets close.

That, explained Hi-Lo's General Manager Oral Richards, will ensure customers are not inconvenienced.

The remodelled supermarkets will be outfitted with expanded shelf space, new floors, new ceilings, better lights, more cash registers and, where necessary, new refrigeration units.

According to Barrientos, in some stores the equipment "is kinda old", and whenever they break down "we have to take the products out and replace them with fresh ones".

To get the "look and feel" they wanted, Hi-Lo is acquiring equipment from Supermarket Source, an American firm that specialises in supermarket and grocery store equipment and supplies.

"They are experts in things like special lighting on products and how the lighting makes the store look," Richards explained.

Local architects Martin Lyn & Associates have been contracted to deal with external building design, construction management and project management, while Core Retail Group Inc is responsible for store design.

"We're trying to come up with a concept... we will try to keep the same layout in our isles; anywhere you walk into a Hi-Lo store the feel and look will be similar," said Barrientos.

Customers at Manor Park, he added, are already commenting on what they have seen of the new look so far.

"They have asked us if we have painted the store, and they have said to us they notice that there is more space," Barrientos said. "They're minor changes, but they give you a different look of the store."

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