Despite COVID-19: Ammar's goes into growth mode


Despite COVID-19: Ammar's goes into growth mode

Stores being refurbished, more space for customers, new decor despite some drop-off in sales


Sunday, July 05, 2020

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a drop in sales for Ammar's, the retailer has embarked on an audacious growth model as the entity, through proprietor Michael Ammar, plans for the future.

In an interview with Sunday Finance, Ammar referred to three occasions when Ammar's went into overdrive when many other entrepreneurs were, complaining, scaling back or even closing down.

“In the 1970s, when many people were leaving the country, we instead became the first business to rent space at the newly constructed Village Plaza, not knowing if it would be successful. Then, when Mall Plaza was constructed, we expanded our store and that location (Village and Mall), has become our number one store,” Ammar said.

The Ammars' proprietor then spoke about the other two times he decided to go for growth instead of waiting around because of uncertainty.

“In the difficult times of the 1980s, we expanded our flagship downtown store, doubling the size, and in the 1990s during the period of many structural changes in the economy, we opened our third store in the Sovereign Plaza.

“So, you can see that Ammars, over the years, has maintained its relevance even in troubled times in a sector which is extremely competitive,” Ammar said.

Commenting on its new growth model during the threat of COVID-19, Ammar said, while participating in a recent Jamaica Observer webinar sponsored by Sagicor, Carreras, and Digicel, that changes had to be made and the decision was taken to do so despite COVID-19 and all the various limitations the pandemic brought.



“We have done everything from the ceiling to the floor; everything has been redone at our Village Plaza-Mall Plaza location.

“Our aisles are much wider than before, we have taken out 10 per cent of the stands, and now there is a lot more space for our customers to move around.

“We have changed our cash locations to the back walls, basically putting them out of the way of customers in the store until they are ready to check-out and leave,” Ammar informed.

He said that Ammars has weathered the COVID-19 storm by being alert and making decisive early decisions.

“We did not close, not even for one of our regular working days. We watched this thing [COVID-19] from December (2019) when it emerged in China.

“Then we implemented most, if not all, of the Government, prescribed health protocols from early March and we have even gone further than those protocols.

“When you come to your stories, the first thing is that our security guards open the door for customers, so they don't have to touch the door; temperatures are checked; hands are sanitised; and all customers must wear a mask before entry into our stories is allowed.

“When customers come into our stores, we try to make the experience as normal as possible.

“Our staff will not get close to customers, but they are present and around to tend to customers' needs.

“Shields have been installed at cash registers to protect customers and our team members. We steam all our clothes both when they come into the store first and if they are returned or exchanged.

“We wipe everything at least once every hour, including cash counters and credit card machines, and we always try to do this cleansing process without the customers feeling uncomfortable because we want to make the shopping experience as unique and great as possible.”



The Ammars owner said the downtown store has also been redone while work has just started at the Sovereign branch.

“We are making the changes to please our many customers.

“Downtown has been taken care of while the Sovereign store's challenges are now being dealt with.

“At Sovereign, the main issue is the air conditioning. Finally, we have found a solution to this problem which has played havoc with us for a while.

“The new normal at Ammars is spacious aisles, modern checkouts, with an engaging décor,” Ammar said while adding that feedback thus far on the remake of the stores has been phenomenal.

“We are looking at our business as a long-term entity, and we have to make the changes now to deal with any situation. COVID-19 has been a real bump in the road, it has challenged all retailers, but we can't focus on today, we have to focus on tomorrow, and nothing is more important than keeping our stores at a world-class standard for our customers,” Ammar said.

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