City Market Dying a Horrible Death?

Friday 29th, October 2010 / 10:52 Published by

Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL), principal owners of the City Market food stores, has announced the agreement of a memorandum of understanding for the sale of its 77.762 percent shareholding in Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL) to Associated Grocers of The Bahamas Limited (AGBL).

This move creates uncertainty as to the future of employees at the beleagured food retailer.

The company has eight stores in New Providence and three in Grand Bahama. It employs about 750 people.

“It does not matter to me who buys the company at this stage, once the individuals and entity are bona fide and legal. The important issue is the saving of Bahamian jobs for the loyal employees of this company and a return to the kind of company that supplies quality merchandise at affordable prices with an adequate supply chain,” said Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell, whose concern abut the future of the employees has been made public.

The BSL sale, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close on or before November 5, the company said in its statement.

Union chiefs have expressed their concern. Elgin Douglas, president of the Bahamas Commercial Stores and Warehouse Workers Union (BCSWWU), said yesterday that he has fears about the future of workers at the company.

Are the workers part of the problem though?

In August, 2010, the Tribune reported that the troubled supermarket chain was continuing to incur “substantial” costs as a result of inventory ‘shrink’ levels that are running three times’ ahead of international industry norms.

“We know that ‘shrink’ should be in the range of 2 per cent or lower, but our ‘shrink’ size is about 6 per cent of sales. The cost to the company is substantial,” Mr Winford told the Tribune at that time.

Others are concerned about the commitment of the new buyers.  Is this new group, Associated Grocers of The Bahamas Limited, related to Associated Grocers of Florida?  Does the company have anything to do with West End and Bimini MP Obie Wilchcombe and former Senator Pleasant Bridgewater, who own Universal Distributors Bahamas Limited.

In June, 2006, the All Business website, reported that Associated Grocers of Florida, with much fanfare, had signed an $8 Million deal for warehouse space in the Bahamas:

“Associated Grocers of Florida and the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited (GBPA) signed an $8 million deal on Monday for an international wholesale distribution warehouse in Freeport, Bahamas. Associated Grocers, a retailer-owned wholesaler, will use the 100,000-square-foot warehouse to sell food, general merchandise, and health and beauty care products. Calvin Miller, president and CEO of Associated Grocers of Florida said company officials expect to break ground for the warehouse in 60 to 180 days.”

But in 2008, the grand plans of Associated Grocers went south, allegedly after its Florida-based operation learned of their intention to do business in Grand Bahama, where they would benefit from tax-free advantages.

The Florida-based group subsequently decided it was no longer necessary to do business in The Bahamas.

The building was apparently then rented by Obie Wilchombe and and Pleasant Bridegwater, who have had nothing but financial difficulties.

In September, 2009, Wilchcombe and Bridgewater were served with an eviction notice by the landlords of the International Distributors Building that their company leases.

Meanhwile, City Market has been desperate to save itself by getting bought out, by anyone, it seems.

Rumours have circulated about City Market’s intentions with each week bringing news about the company being purchased by a different buyer.

On October 27, the Tribune reported that talks Abaco Markets Limited (AML) and City Markets over a deal that would have seen AML acquire some or all of the struggling supermarket chain’s assets broke down.

There was also speculation that Bahamas Food Services might be interested, although that company has enough on its plate with the recent merger/acquisition of Prime Bahamas.

Some in the business community expressed concern about a food wholesaler operating in the retail environemnt.

In September, City Markets posted a $7.431 million net loss for the year to June 30, 2010, a 22.4 per cent increase over the previous year’s loss of $6.069 million.

The company, maybe in an attempt to save money, had an inexperienced advertising wannabe handling their marketing.

The young woman was in way over her head and did nothing to reverse the declining image of the food store to Bahamian consumers.  Like so many “marketing experts” in the Bahamas, the foreign-born woman seemed to spend most of her time trying to figure out ways to make money for herself, rather than making money for the company.

Is the government so desperate to save the food chain and the jobs, that they will approve the sale of the company to anybody, or will due dilligence be applied and the future of City Markets and their employees made secure?

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7 Comments on “City Market Dying a Horrible Death?

  • Nothing is going to happen until Bahamian do right by one another, God is watching, and until Bahamians do right by one another then and only then things will change for the better. As a Bahamian I hear it every time I am asked where I am from. The people in the Bahamas are very rude, and that saddens me, it is the truth, in 2007 when I came home to reenstate my Mom’s (RIP) National Insurance, I was treated so badly, I told my son I will never ever return back to the Bahamas, and he asked me Mom why is that, I told him how rude and mean I was treated, by the people I came in contact there, so I know that tourist that goes there are not lying. Maybe when everyone stop coming to the Bahamas and things begin to look real bad, maybe they will get it. I thank God that I am not like that and there needs to be a change or things are really going to get bad.

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  • Hello,I wanted to know if the City markets sells Bahamian made food products.If I wanted to have my food product sold at City Market,what are the requirements?I see cakes that are imported-why isnt those cakes Bahaiman made?

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    • because believe or not most people dont like bahamian made food, it is not sold in shops because guess what no one buys them that is why you only see imported food in the supermarkets, they only stock what sells, thats why mcdonalds and kfc are so busy. sometimes i just want to shake people and say wake up. bahamas is great to bahamians to everyone else its just another place to go and live work, visit and sit on a beach. there are 1000’s of beaches and places to go and visit, most people never heard of johnny or rum cake why would they buy it from a shop if there is an imported one they know about and like sitting next to it. if you want to make a living make stuff that sells not just because it is your heritage. if you run a supermarket are you going to stock with goods that dont sell??

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  • Mr Newsboy, why you use words blaming the woman using foreign born, when a person works for the company, it is not foreign or native, that lady may be wrong may be she have no experience but when you work for a company ,it is just the work and not the nationality of the company, in the bahamas many things are owned by the foreigners, the economy runs because of the foreigners,Bahamas does`t have any infrastructure , here we have no business schools, foreigners when they come here they invest, they take risk they use their knowledge and skills , bahamas government doesn`t give any assurance for the investment,than why this blaming game foreigner, think about it, if all the foreigners leave the country will the bahamians can survive by their own, No Bahamians cant survive by their own. Business falls because of loopholes in the company, like stealing, bad management, unqualified and immature staff, insufficient and unproper marketing, Bahamians need to get educated and stop blaming on foreigners,

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    • I’d like to clear up a misconception that was brought to my attention on the above article. I am not sure who you were referring to as the “young” foreign born woman. My predecessor or myself? If you were referring to me, I am a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. However, when working for Bahamas Supermarkets from December 2006 – December 2009, the internal and external problems the company faced could not be fixed with marketing alone. Lack of finances, the right product mix, the high price points on many of the products and other factors interfered! As for the comment, “the young woman seemed to spend more time trying to figure out ways to make money for herself than make more money for the company.” Clearly, you weren’t referring to me? I was a consultant at BSL from January 2010 to June 2010 where I built the print ads for the newspapers and website. I was NOT an employee therefore was free to work on my company. When I worked at BSL for the 3 years, I was the only one in the marketing department responsible for building and distributing the media ads and whatever campaigns the company could afford to run. When I departed, they had a manager, an assistant and an ad agency at their helm. Did that change the image or fix the problems the company had?

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  • Maybe they should stop the employees from having personal conversations at the till while customers are waiting. Maybe they should have the grocery packers learn how not to say the F word in every other sentence.
    Maybe they should get rid of the birds in the store. Maybe they should watch expiry dates on goods. Maybe they should clean up the POOLS OF BLOOD sitting underneath the meat for sale.
    Just Maybe…

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  • Associated Grocers of the Bahamas (AGBL) is affiliated with Bahamas Food Services, headed by Ben Frisch, and is in no way associated with the deadbeats from Grand Bahama.

    Reply

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