Customers at minimart and village shops across the island are complaining about having to pay more for basic food supplies and other necessities, but the operators of these establishments insist they have had no choice but to pass on increased costs to consumers.
Several shop proprietors who spoke to Barbados TODAY said even though they sympathise with customers who are feeling the pinch of the increased cost of living, they were in the same boat as they were also facing higher bills from suppliers.
Many reported that customers have been shopping with caution in recent months. They also reported a shortage of some items, and noted that retailers have been warning that more items may become unavailable in the coming months.
A representative at Jamoon Enterprises Limited, who said customers had been constantly complaining about higher price tags, confirmed that the minimart had raised the prices of some items at least three times within the last year.
“Pig tails went up twice last year and once this year. Cheese went up once this year and twice last year. Just now biscuits going up for the second time this year. Things will get worse and a lot of things out of stock and you will not see certain things maybe not until next year. Tuna was out of stock for a while and a certain brand of coconut milk out of stock for months now,” the representative said.
“Cooking oil isn’t an issue, it is in stock, but the prices for oil really going up. Things like cheese, eggs, chicken, butter, milk, bread and things that people use every day went up and still going up. But we cannot do any better at this time. We still have rent to pay and other overheads and we still have to make a profit.”
Mya Smith of Marshall’s Minimart in Four Roads, St Philip, said it was not possible for customers to escape higher prices.
She said she had noticed that many customers were shopping daily, instead of weekly as they had been doing over the years.
“I find at the moment that you are finding bread, biscuits, soft drinks, going up. If they need the bread they are going to buy it. Some are crying out, but obviously if they can’t afford the bread they will buy the flour and make their own bread or make bakes…. Based on the fuel costs, if it continues to increase, the prices are going to continue to go up,” Smith said.
Manager at R and R Convenience in Christ Church, Rhonda Butcher said customers must be mindful that small shops are unable to purchase items at the same prices larger businesses that buy in bulk benefit from.
She said this was one of the reasons small establishments had to raise their prices when suppliers increased the cost of their items.
“We just buy a case or a half case, so the price is always high. Customers always complain that the prices are high but they have to appreciate that our prices will always be higher than the bigger supermarkets because we always have to pay more for our items,” Butcher said, adding that shelves at her convenience store were missing items that suppliers currently do not have in stock.
Meanwhile, the owner of Banana Tree at Bayland, St Michael, shared with Barbados TODAY that her establishment closes many days without making any money.
The proprietor said Saturday was the only day she could look forward to customers patronising her business.
“It bad. Customers stop coming because they say them ain’t got no money to lime and have fun anymore because they have their bills to pay and they got to buy food. The light bill now gone up again and that is stopping a lot of people from coming to have a drink or so,” she said.
At Bridge Gap, St Michael, one shop owner said he has not raised the prices of items because he still has stock purchased from suppliers before they increased their prices.