Retailers ready for influx of shoppers
Wednesday marks five days until Christmas and retailers across various sectors are bracing for an influx of shoppers over the upcoming weekend to get a share of the $30 billion in additional monies the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) will be putting into the economy to facilitate the annual surge in spending which happens at this time of the year.
Large supermarket chains such as Progressive Grocers and HiLo have already made arrangements to accommodate grocery shopping from 7 am up to midnight on Saturday, December 23 across most parishes, and will reopen at 8 am on Sunday, December 24, up to 8 pm to facilitate last-minute purchases.
Progressive Grocers operates the brands: Progressive Foods, Shoppers Fair, Super Shoppers Fair, D&Y Supermarket Wholesale, and JR’s Bargain World Food Stores, while HiLo is a subsidiary of the GraceKennedy Group. But the grocery market is not the only sector preparing itself for a surge in retail crowd throughout this week into the weekend.
In addition to promoting products at discounted prices to woo customers, furniture and appliance retailers Courts and Singer will open their doors between 9 am and 4 pm this Sunday to cash in on last-minute sales. Paint store Sherwin Williams will also open its doors to customers on Sunday, and so too will Hi-Pro, which is a one-stop supplier for housewares, lawn and garden, pets, agricultural, hardware products and more.
Retailers have entered the holiday season with more teammates and tighter work schedules than it’s had in past years, partly due to a resurgence in demand for some consumer items post-COVID. The whopping $2.55 billion in ABM and POS transactions conducted on Black Friday also has retailers upbeat on sales projections over the Christmas period heading into the new year, and they are preparing themselves accordingly.
Edmundo Jenez, chief executive officer (CEO) of JETS Limited, which is an electronic banking service company operating Jamaica’s national debit card network that trades as MultiLink, predicts that pre-Christmas shopping will rise to between $2.6 billion and $2.7 billion in point-of-sale and ABM transactions, amid inflation concerns throughout the year.
It’s part of the reason why Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited (CPJ), a supplier of liquors and food to the hospitality sector, has been working to ensure it has an adequate supply of stock to fulfil consumer demands.
“We have very strong projections for the winter season and so we are carrying more inventory than we would normally carry,” chairman of CPJ Mark Hart told the Jamaica Observer. “We are anticipating strong demand for the next six months but if that doesn’t materialise, we will slow down our inventory purchases.”
“Our Jamaican company would carry somewhere between US$25 and US$27 million in our warehouses, not inclusive of goods in transit. Now, we are more in the range of $30 to $32 million in inventory, so we are adequately stocked for the winter season,” Hart said.
Readings from some of Jamaica’s top-producing manufacturing and distribution companies, including the producers of meat and eggs, are that holiday-favoured products are in adequate supply.
A typical consumer shopping basket would contain fruits and vegetables, bread, flour, rice, chicken, fish, pork, eggs, herbs and spices, flavourings, alcoholic beverages, sugar, milk and butter, and Richard Pandohie, the chief executive officer of Seprod, which sells some of those products under the brands Serge, Gold Seal and Chiffon, has also confirmed that the company has “more than enough inventory to comfortably supply” the demands of market.
Seprod has been working through logistics details to ensure that deliveries are made to its network of wholesalers ahead of time to avoid inventory depletion at retail outlets, including community shops, supermarkets and wholesales across the island during the high-shopping period.
Meanwhile, vice-president of the Jamaica Broilers Group, Ian Parsard told the Business Observer that there is an adequate supply of chicken meat and eggs on the market.
“The indications from the industry as a whole at this stage is that we will have more than adequate supply going into Christmas. We are not getting any reports of any segments being tight on supply and I can speak certainly for Best Dressed Chicken that we do have good enough supply to take us through Christmas and the new year,” Parsard said.
Three months ago, the Jamaica Agricultural Society raised alarms over rising temperatures and the potential impact on the poultry industry. JAS President Lenworth Fulton at the time said the heat was taking a toll on small chicken farms across the island following reports of significant losses from farmers. He cautioned that the country could experience chicken supply challenges over the Christmas period, amid price changes.
But on Monday, Parsard confirmed that there is adequate supply in the market and said that the price of chicken and chicken parts will remain stable.
“We certainly won’t see any price adjustment for this holiday season, but we will have to look and see what 2024 will look like. If anyone does their review, they will see that over the last 18 months, we have taken two increases and one reduction in prices totalling probably 2 to 3 per cent so I think the industry has done well in containing prices,” Parsard said.
As for Hi-Lo, the company said it is ready for the festive season.
“Our shelves are filled with highly sought-after holiday essentials, including hams, fruit cake ingredients, wines and spirits. We are also maintaining our extensive selection of fresh produce, quality meats, and a variety of other food and beverage items,” Don Wehby, the CEO of GraceKennedy told the Business Observer.
“We are also ‘making life easier’ for our customers with our ‘ham-azing’ service â€“ simply purchase a ham or turkey from Hi-Lo, and we’ll expertly prepare it for you. Customers can also select from a wide range of delectable baked goods from our Hi-Lo bakery, including our award-winning ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ fruit cakes.
For customers looking for the perfect gift, Hi-Lo gift certificates are available at all our stores, and our new Hi-Lo eGift card can be purchased online through GiftMe. All our stores will extend their opening hours on Christmas Eve, with select locations remaining open until midnight. We then reopen on Boxing Day at 8am, with doors staying open until 5 pm.”
Wehby added that customers can also avoid the holiday crowd by choosing HiLo Online for their shopping needs. “With just a click, customers have access to a fully stocked Hi-Lo store, and groceries can be conveniently delivered right to their doorstep. Customers can also accumulate and redeem GKVR points while shopping Hi-Lo Online.”