Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica – photo credit: Dominica News
On 27 April 2013 Barbados Underground (BU) posted the blog Who Are the Local Partners in Cost-U-Less?. Although the Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit has denied the word making the rounds that he is a local shareholder, BU defends our right to ask questions of Skerrit or anyone in the interest of providing clarification.
In the interest of providing further clarification it should be noted that the Companies Act Cap 308 places sole responsibility of managing the company in the hands of the Directors. What this means is that unless a shareholder choses to be a Director the public is left to speculate who are the shareholders. The Act is drafted to protect the Shareholder who – if not a Director – has no say in the conduct of the company.
BU reiterates our position taken in the original blog, in the interest of transparency the other names mentioned (Hartley Henry, the Estate of David Thompson and Leroy Parris) should state publicly whether they have an interest in Cost U Less (CUL). The government has approved significant concessions to CUL and given the names mentioned the public has a right to know. It should be noted that Pricesmart has since denied receiving similar concessions. Also at the time of launch it was widely reported that David Staples represented local shareholder interest. Perhaps in the interest of protecting its goodwill CUL should make a public statement stating who are the local shareholders.
Late Prime Minister David Thompson (l) disgraced former Chairman of CLICO Holdings B’dos Ltd rumoured to be local partners in Cost-U-Less
We do not charge membership fees and believe we can offer low prices to Barbados shoppers, just as we have in our most recent store opening in the Cayman Islands, which was also a partnership with local business people
It has been almost five years from the time of the announcement Cost U Less Maybe Coming To Barbados that it launched in Barbados. However, based on consumer feedback the wait has been in vain. It has been two months since launch and Barbadians continue to wait for the low prices promised. Before the coming of Cost-U-Less the Trinidadians, who now have a vice grip on our food retail and distribution channels, had promised Barbadian consumers the same, that is, we would benefit from economies of scale created by a larger T&T market.
Barbados now finds itself in a situation where we have a new entrant to an already competitive retail food sector. And it has not demonstrated any appreciable price differentiation in its offering. Sad to say the inevitable must follow. We created 200 jobs with the coming of Cost-U-Less but SuperCentre and DacostaMannings, owned by the Trinidadians, continue to send home employees.
Submitted by islandgal
Cost-U-Less is baiting and switching at the checkout. For example, honey dew melons and cantaloupes are priced each when you get to the checkout they are weighing them and charging you more. I have had arguments with them on four occasions and each time there were several managers and supervisors checking their computers and telling me that they are sold by the kilo. I pointed out to them that they are priced at each. One of the floor managers came to me and explained that it was priced by the kilo so I told him that they should change the price on the on the shelf. He went to see the shelf price and agreed that it was priced each. I was so frustrated that I told them to take it off my bill as there were other people in the line waiting to checkout. They removed it and the manager came to me and apologised and he offered it to me on the house. I told him to tell the guard about it so that he wouldn’t think that I stole it.
On my second visit I encountered the same problem they went and took down the each price tag and told me it was the wrong price and I left without purchasing.
Burger King opened in Sky Mall (Barbados)
The news this week that fast food restaurant Burger King had to pull ‘beef burgers’ from its UK outlets which were supplied by an Irish vender has alarmed many Barbadians. Why you ask? Burger King recently opened its doors at Sky Mall formerly Mall Internationale in Barbados. It is a bold move by Bizzy Williams the principal investo given the view that Barbadians are not regarded as burger lovers. Perhaps he is banking on the fact that Bajans have moved on from the McDonalds experience. Nothing wrong with eating horse meat though, the issue like most things nowadays is it is all about the lack of business ethics and public trust. If you say you are selling beef burgers how the hell does it translate to HORSE MEAT? Let us hope that the carcasses of some of those retired horses owned by Bizzy’s brother do not make it into the kitchen of Burger King Barbados.
What has provoked the interest of BU about the coming of Burger King is a statement made by President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce Lalu Vaswani at the renaming of Sky Mall which coincided with the opening of Burger King:
“… Barbados’ food and beverage and agricultural sectors can greatly benefit from the opportunity to secure long-term supply partnerships with franchises. Equally, it is in the economic interest of franchises to ensure a viable local supply chain, since reinvesting in the local economy promotes economic growth and consumer demand,” he said. (Barbados Advocate – 1/28/2013)
As we enter the new year, already there are signs of desperations from the government, none more so than the rather strange decision to do deals with Cost-U-Less, one of those US-based cheap retail outfits. But, as the old people used to say: ‘every skin teet ain’t a laugh’. Or, more pertinently, all that glistens is not gold.
Let us look at the publicly known concessions the government has granted Cost-U-Less and how this will benefit Barbados as an economy.
First, exemptions from import duties and VAT on fittings, furniture and other construction materials, which in itself exposes the government’s lack of strategic thinking, since although exemptions could form part of strategic thinking, this is only applicable where there are obvious skills and knowledge that are transferable.
In other words, regardless of the commercial success or failure of the enterprise, they will be leaving something behind in their footprint that Barbados as an economy could continue to benefit from. But the concessions go further than this: they also apply to the personal household effects and vehicles of foreign staff, which is beyond belief.
However, the most scandalous of these exemptions is the fifteen-year break the company would have on dividend taxation. In other words, they will be free to grab their profits and run.