Despite taking several hits over the years, including a fall off in sales due to economic conditions and the introduction of similar type retail shops, Chairman and Managing Director of Shopsmart Wallace Griffith said he remained committed to Barbados.
Shopsmart started out as the first membership only warehouse type shopping on the island 18 years ago with its headquarters in Holders Hill, St James.
Another location was introduced in 2003 in Fairchild Street, The City, and was subsequently relocated to Cheapside, also in the capital.
Speaking to reporters following a tour of the Cheapside location by Minister of Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland and other ministry officials, Griffith promised to do what he could to keep commodity prices down in light of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
“I think that the entire retail trade has been impacted the last few months as the country has undergone its challenges and I think that we all have to work together to ensure that we can keep the cost of living down so that all those persons who are already disadvantaged by being laid off, we don’t want to make life harder for them. We all have to play our part and we are certainly trying to do our best to source new products and to try to keep the average prices down. That is our aim,” explained Griffith.
Close to four years ago Shopsmart changed its model, allowing non-members to shop with a small upcharge on items, while members continued to benefit from a discount. Over the years the company also added six express locations across the country.
Griffith said the opening of those locations was a strategic move, in order to allow people in those locations to have access to various items they otherwise would have to travel for.
He said considering the current economic conditions, he had no immediate plans for further expansion.
“I think as the country goes through this difficult period, we certainly will be holding strain and trying to maintain our position, and certainly try to keep all of our employees occupied,” he said.
Shopsmart currently employs some 130 people.
Approximately seven years ago Barbados welcomed the membership warehouse club retailer PriceSmart, and in 2013 the country welcomed the presence of North-American-based retailer Cost-U-Less.
Griffith said since the introduction of similar stores his company has taken a hit.
“We have the same number of consumers that we had a year ago. So obviously the introduction of any new player in the market will have some effect on your numbers because we are all drawing from the same pool,” he said.
“So certainly, we would have been affected over the years by the introduction of new companies. But at the end of the day we are Barbadians and we live here, and we are not going anywhere, and what we do is in the interest of our country and our employees, families and friends and our focus remains on that,” assured Griffith.