Coronavirus pandemic forcing more Jamaicans to shop onlineWednesday, September 01, 2021
PRICESMART, the bulk goods seller, has expanded its “click and go” online shopping service to Jamaica, allowing club members to shop via the Internet. It is one of several local service providers using e-commerce platforms to expand sales in the midst of the pandemic.
Sherry Bahrambeygui, chief executive officer at Pricesmart, explained in previous reports that the company's click and go programme has been launched in most of its Central American and Colombian markets to reduce physical contact and exposure for shoppers. She stated, “ 'Click and Go' allows our members to see a catalogue of club merchandise online, place their order, pay online and then retrieve their order at the club the same or next day, without having to get out of their car.”
PriceSmart, which has one warehouse in Jamaica but is planning for a second, indicates that it is working on new ways to help members get the goods they need. The company, meanwhile, has increased arrangements with third parties for delivery and, in some markets, is doing delivery itself. Requests by the Jamaica Observer for an update on delivery options for the Jamaican market were not supplied.
Another company, Seprod Limited, has launched seprodshop.com, a site which has gained traction among Jamaicans living abroad who want to shop for their relatives in the island. Richard Pandohie, Seprod Group's CEO, outlined that the website has been doing well. “We have had over 60,000 visitors to the website from all over the world — USA, Canada, UK, Dubai, Ireland, Trinidad and Cayman — and we continue to grow each month.” He said the site is Diaspora-focused, not local only. The company offers islandwide delivery to shoppers' homes or offices. Seprod offers free delivery on orders over $10,000 but for orders under $10,000, there is a $450 shipping fee. Top-performing products on shopseprod.com are sweetened condensed milk, toilet paper, whole milk, Supligen, tinned tuna and sardines, juices, snacks, macaroni & cheese and butter.
The success being seen by Seprod is expected to continue replicating across Jamaica. Khary Robinson, CEO of Mailpac Group Limited, told the Business Observer that as the distrust of digital transactions declines, e-commerce will increase in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region. Robinson told the Business Observer, “The cycle of digital trust is exponential, as you have your early adopters and then their experience translates into referrals to the space, ultimately creating an exponential network effect. The pandemic further propelled that process and so, more and more, people are shopping for goods and services online. So, I think the future is extremely bright for growth and acceptance of e-commerce in the region —and we are seeing that daily.
Mailpac uses its online platform to permit Jamaicans to shop on sites such as Amazon and others which have goods and services at a price Jamaicans want. Robinson said, “Mailpac has benefited significantly since the pandemic as the company allows consumers to get goods from places that they otherwise could not get to, given the movement limitations.”
Regarding these he notes, “There are always greater efficiencies that could make online shopping better, however, I think the private sector is doing a good job of seeing the value in creating solutions that fix those inefficiencies. More importantly, the Caribbean is a late adopter and so much of the technology is already built and proven in other regions, therefore it is easier for the private sector to identify the missing tools and leverage them in the Caribbean.”
The push into e-commerce has not escaped GraceKennedy. The company said it is to launch a new e-commerce site to the public later this year that will allow its retail subsidiary, Hi-Lo, to offer its customers online shopping with home delivery. Hi-Lo has been offering curbside service for close to two years now.
Katherine Kennedy, GraceKennedy's chief group risk officer commented, “As GraceKennedy advances its digital strategy across our group, Hi-Lo Food Stores has identified e-commerce as an important sales channel which we must expand into. Grocery e-commerce is well-established in Europe and North America, and our Jamaican customers — both locally and in the Diaspora — also want a convenient and safe way to shop for groceries online. We have also observed a radical shift in customer behaviour associated with the [novel coronavirus] pandemic which prioritises convenience and low/no-contact deliveries. As a result, we accelerated the development of our Hi-Lo e-commerce platform which is now in the final stages of its pilot.”