The top brass of Barbados’ latest hardware and home improvement store is predicting a shakeup in the local market.
Chief Executive Officer of Kooyman Holding International, Herbert van der Woude said while he was not in the market to put anyone out of business, the presence of his superstore at Kendal Hill, Christ Church would force existing players to up their game and “function on a higher level”.
“The competition will have to do something to also get to a different level that we are offering,” Van der Woude told members of the media on Wednesday, ahead of the official opening of the store this weekend.
“There is going to be pressure on the whole sector to lift up its level of assortment, pricing, service, etcetera. Other markets where we have seen the same effect is that none of them go out of business; it is just that the market, as a total, will grow. Where you have more supply in a different way the demand will go up.
“So, in the end, the economy, the consumer and the contractor will benefit from that. But we are certainly, absolutely not looking to put any competitor out of business. There is always room for different concepts,” he said.
Van der Woude said the unique feature that made his hardware and home improvement store different was the drive-thru which customers could use to make certain purchases without leaving their vehicles.
“Our drive-thru concept has earned us, in our other markets, the innovation prize for the most economic impact, and that is because the way contractors buy their materials we have changed it dramatically with the concept of the drive-thru,” he said.
The businessman said the response from the Barbadian public has been very positive so far, and people were especially pleased with the range of items on offer.
He said his company would be competing especially on high quality service, variety, and its maintenance and repair programmes.
“Price is not the thing we will fight on. We offer relatively competitive prices. Of course, we will never avoid a price war when it sets in. We will fight back when price wars start but we won’t be the first to start a price war,” Van der Woude promised.
Following the purchase of the Kendal Hill location in October 2018, officials broke ground for the construction of the US$40 million megastore in March 2019. The entire store sits on approximately 165,000 square feet of land.
The Kooyman official said he believed the investment came at an opportune time for Barbados, adding that he was already seeing signs of economic recovery.
“I speak to a lot of people in the contracting business and they see a lot of new projects coming their way. Compared to 2016/2017 when we first started visiting Barbados, I feel much more optimistic in a general sense in the public. So I am confident we are here just in time, just in time to be part of the recovery of the Barbados economy,” he said.
Kooyman started hiring workers from September last year and now has a staff complement of 105 – of which 103 are locals, most of whom received training in the company’s other locations in Aruba, St Maarten, Bonaire and Curaçao.
The Kooyman CEO said while other islands presented opportunities for the company’s expansion, Barbados was chosen for several reasons, including its population size, level of development, and strong judicial and legislative systems.
“Looking at Barbados it has a very well developed judicial system, it has anti-money laundering laws and unfair competition laws, it has a high standard on the transparency international list of non-corruptive nations. So those all together for us were very important factors,” he said.
“Also, when we looked at the market we said this is the market where we can add something because our [drive-thru] concept is not yet here,” Van der Woude added, noting that Kooyman has no immediate plan to expand to other islands.
While lauding the island for its ease of doing business and saying that he was proud the construction of the store was completed on time and within budget, he noted that there were two setbacks – a fire to equipment and delays associated with the ASYCUDA World system at Customs.
The Kooyman CEO dismissed the notion that the company would be sending valuable foreign exchange outside Barbados.
“Wherever company invests, in the end it will pay out dividends to its shareholders because they are the ones that take the risk. Besides that, I think we are not aiming for that as a goal in our philosophy. We are here for the long term and we want to become as good a corporate citizen as possible and become part of your community and that means investing and reinvesting in the Barbados community,” he assured.