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Costs us more

by Roy R. Morris

A storm is brewing in Barbados’ retail sector over reports that the newest entrant, Cost-U-Less has received major concessions from Government.

Earlier this week Barbados TODAY was told by reliable Customs sources that the giant United States buying club, which is due to open a massive store in Welches, St. Thomas in weeks, had been granted concessions of tax free building materials, vehicles to be used in their operations, in addition to a 15-year tax holiday.

And while efforts to contact Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler this afternoon for confirmation were unsuccessful, Government sources said the concessions granted to Cost-U-less,, while not detailing them, were in keeping with what any foreign entity setting up business here would have automatically received.

Additionally, said the source, the Government could only operate on the basis of requests for concessions, and if “others did not apply for them they shouldn’t complain”.

According to the Government source, local businessman Andrew Bynoe applied for concessions to built the massive ultra-modern Carlton Supermarket complex at Black Rock and received generously.

But while Bynoe declined to comment, a source close to the veteran retail operator said concessions Carlton received could not compare with what was purportedly granted to Cost-U-Less.

Retail merchant, Sir David Seale, when contacted by Barbados TODAY said he had not heard of the concessions given to the American retailer, but stressed he had never known of such eases being given to local players in the retail trade, and questioned how locals could compete in such an environment.

“If what you are saying is correct it means that their expenses would be reduced to such an extent that they would be able to offer prices that others would have a hard time matching… If it is true that would be outrageous,” Sir David said.

Additionally, President of the National Union of Public Workers, Walter Maloney, who had been leading an initiative by that organisation to set up its own buying club for its thousands of members, said the absence of such reduced inputs resulted in identified partners bailing.

The union, which had identified a building in Newton to house the operation, has since placed the project on hold, Maloney said.

Meanwhile, the international chain is pressing ahead with finishes to its $20 million, 80,000 square foot complex on eight acres of land just north of the Warrens area, which is expected to employ more than 50 persons once it starts selling merchandise.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY during the early stages of the project, the company’s Vice-president of Store Development, Don McConnell, said another 40,000 square feet of retail space would be available for lease to other operators.

“We want to ensure when we come to the market we can deliver our best to the people of Barbados and leave a good impression. You usually don’t have a second chance. When you open your doors you have to make sure you get it right,” he said.

About the quality of products Barbadians could expect, he said: “Definitely you can expect to find quality North American and international brands and products. I can tell you that Cost-U-Less is known in our other markets for providing excellent service and being the store of choice. It’s one of those things where you want to under promise and over deliver. We have been very successful in other markets; we do so by providing great value to our customers. We don’t charge a membership fee and everybody’s welcomed,” he said.

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