DERRIMON Trading Company is bringing a new customer experience to central Jamaica with the completion of its newest Select Grocers location at Millennium Mall in May Pen, Clarendon.
The outlet, which opened to the public on Wednesday, November 16, is 41,000 square feet with two levels. The ground floor is 30,000 square feet and the upper level is 11,000 square feet.
The Jamaica Observer was given an exclusive tour of the new facility.
Derrick Cotterell, chairman and chief executive officer of Derrimon Trading Company, said the project started three years ago but was delayed by circumstances brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"We started discussions in 2019 before the pandemic. We signed [a] contract and all that and then the pandemic hit, so everything went on hold for a year because we didn't know what was happening," Cotterell explained.
The team, however, was determined to press on in spite of the logistics challenges, which included price hikes on building materials and difficulties procuring finishes for the supermarket.
"We started to do the planning layout and a lot of the store in late 2020, signed off on that and then started construction October 2021. The building was here already but we had to make some significant changes and then the supply chain problem," Cotterell stated
"The escalator came from the other side of the world; we couldn't get shelves [but] we eventually got shelves from Colombia. They sat in the factory for four months before they could get containers to ship them here [and] the refrigerators all had to be shipped in from the States, so it took a while but thank the Lord, it is finally over," he said with a sigh of relief.
The total investment is in excess of $1 billion.
Chief financial officer of Derrimon Trading Company Ian Kelly told the Business Observer that the company knew the project would be capital-intensive and had therefore created a plan for expected returns.
"As a group we have our early returns that we'd want to generate on each business and, based on that early return, we would have factored it within our model to determine the outcome. The truth is you're not going to price yourself out of the market and we're in this thing for the long haul and as a result of that, overtime, you'll see it being translated within the dividends that we will pay," Kelly disclosed.
He continued: "When you look at this it is highly capital-intensive. As a result of that, we know where we want to go in terms of sales and what it will take for us to operate and based on that, you'll see the necessary net profit. The truth is we will be aggressive."
Cotterell added "It's difficult but we've done our stuff and within a reasonable time; five to seven years we should be able to recoup our money. But an investment like this is a long-term investment. We believe in the people of central Jamaica, we believe in the people of Clarendon, we believe in the people of May Pen that once we give them what they ask for, they'll support us and we've seen that so far. So we're not worried about return on investment."
In terms of the offerings available in the new store, Cotterell shared that the model used in May Pen is unique. He said the company did market research prior to opening the store and found that the community needed variety and more options in a comfortable and convenient space. That coupled with industry experience helped the team to devise a unique layout with a little bit of everything.
"We travel a bit and we see what is in developed countries and even emerging markets, and what consumers are asking for is not just to shop here for grocery — they want a bigger, better experience. For example, you'd notice in the United States most of the malls are built without a supermarket, but when you go to other parts of the world there's a supermarket in the mall. So, this is the anchor store for this mall. We didn't get into clothing because there's enough clothing stores. So, we looked and see what we can do to give the people an experience in this supermarket space but also to complement the mall," Cotterell noted.
"For our store, what we realised would have been complementary is our lighting store with FosRich, SelectTech. We're going to have specialty stuff in our other areas; there's a travel service when you come in and they also deliver packaging, there's a flower shop and bill payment is going to be there. People want more than just picking up grocery, they want a full experience," he continued.
With that said, head of retail and group purchasing at Select Grocers Oral Richards said that about 80 individuals have been employed directly at the new store in order to ensure high customer service standards.
"We wanted to have a better customer experience, you saw some staff that are in the aisles packing, what we have are sales/store associates who are cashing, packing, wrapping. When a customer comes in, they shouldn't feel like there's no one assisting in the aisles, so we actually are investing in customer experience," he said.
He stressed that over 80 per cent of the workers reside in neighbouring communities but added that the facility provides employment for many people from other central Jamaica parishes.
"We have staff from beyond May Pen, some staff from as far as Old Harbour, etc, but what happens is that a lot of them are within walking distance. We look for people within the community," Richards told the Business Observer.
"From as far as Mocho, down to Lionel Town and Rock River, so it's all over Clarendon. It's local employment and everybody in the store is a new employee. A lot of them are new to the supermarket business, but we give them extensive training. The managers are experienced. They were in the supermarket business before, but the human capital is something that we take very seriously," Cotterell chimed in.
The retail manager said, "We started taking on staff like four or five months before, most of them came on between three and one month before the store opened specifically for training. We actually took them and sent them into some of our other stores but we also have classroom and practical training. So, even the work that you see being done in the store here with all the merchandising, etc, this was the work of the staff. We didn't bring in a team for that. They learnt about the products, about the layout of the store, about customer service, everything."
Looking ahead, the Derrimon Trading executives revealed they have plans to open more stores across the island. However, they did not provide a timeline or location for the next Select Grocers project.
"We plan to do more stores like this as the opportunities arise. We think this is the minimum standard Jamaicans want. Even with the escalator, we put it in for the ease of access to upstairs, plus if people are physically challenged you can ride the escalator quite comfortably. The store will have the ability for the trolleys to go up there eventually."
Derrimon Trading opened its first Select Grocers location in Upper Manor Park Plaza on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew in 2017. The new May Pen location is the second Select Grocers supermarket in the island. The official launch of Select Grocers May Pen will take place in February 2023.