Thursday 17 October, 2019

Woolworth working to keep competitive without cuts

Mother and kids shopping for school bags in F.W. Woolworth Barbados.

Mother and kids shopping for school bags in F.W. Woolworth Barbados.

The management of F.W. Woolworth Barbados is doing what it can to maintain staff numbers while remaining competitive despite the burden of the increased National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).

When Managing Director Martin Bryan was asked recently if they are considering reducing their staff complement, he said, “at the moment ‘no’. We don’t have any indication.”

For summer the Woolworth Department Store actually took on employees temporarily to meet the demand of their Back-to-school customers and they intend to hire for Christmas as well, during the last month of the year. He said mainly students on job attachment.

But as it speaks to job security, he repeated, “Right now, I can’t foresee in the future, I don’t know what September, October, November will hold, but at the moment we are not contemplating any job cuts.”  

In addition, when the NSRL’s eight percent increase was announced in the Budget in Parliament in May, Bryan had told Loop News that his team was going to look at their departments and decide if they will keep all or reduce the offerings.

He gave an update on that process stating that they have not made the decision to cut any departments at this point in time. They will continue to “run that as is.”

Asked about Back-to-school’s sales this year, he said:

“It was very slow in the beginning. July was quiet compared to last year, leading up to Crop Over, which was a bit concerning at the time but then once we turned into August we saw an increase in folks coming in to get their school supplies.

“They’ve been very pleased with what they are getting. We have been getting lots of positive feedback in terms of the prices because our pricing wasn’t impacted by the NSRL because we got all the goods in early. So we had kinda last year’s prices, there was no increase so I think a lot of our customers were very happy with that."

In the last two weeks and into this last weekend, they saw a good pickup in sales, because as he noted "Bajans are primarily last-minute shoppers.”

Bryan was delighted to share that they were seeing a lot of familiar, repeat and new faces, and ultimately he hoped that the August into September business and late rush would make up for July, because “July was not very good”.

And he continually attributed the influx in customers to the fact that Woolworth’s pricing was “good or better than competitors and in line with last year.”

As persons look forward to Christmas shopping, Bryan also promised competitive prices. Saying, “We just have to look at our margins and how we’re running business,” he reiterated that the NSRL besides affecting the price of goods is also affecting the business because all of their backend stuff and cleaners and all that stuff has been affected,” so cost of running business has gone up, but at the same time we have to be cognizant that the NSRL will have an impact on the disposable income, so we’re just keeping a close eye on our margins to see what the market can bear.

“At the end of the day, the open market will determine what customers will purchase, but I guarantee you that our prices will be very competitive and encouraging for shoppers to come into Woolworth as opposed to anywhere else.”

Asserting that there will be variety and selection available in store for December, he stressed, “Our pricing, our pricing will be good. We’re going to keep a very close eye on our margins and make sure that our margins are competitive, customers can get what they want and that’s that.”

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