By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BUSINESSMAN Sandy Schaefer said around $10 million has been invested to re-open both of his former Robin Hood outlets, a development he said will create 250 jobs.
The Robin Hood former principal said he expected its former Tonique Williams-Darling location to re-open as Shepherd’s Mart at the end of March or early April, 2013, with the Prince Charles Drive location set to come back online by the end of June or early July.
Describing the demise of his former Robin Hood retail business as a humbling experience, Mr Schaefer said “the phoenix was rising from the ashes”, telling Tribune Business customers could expect to see a 15-20 per cent decrease in food costs immediately once it re-opened.
Revealing that he had planned to re-open the Tonique Williams-Darling location in partnership with his Summerwinds Plaza landlord, PLP MP Leslie Miller, Mr Schaefer said the deal never materialised.
He credited Mr Miller, however, with providing a “generous and reasonable” lease accommodation, which helped facilitate the reopening.
“At the end of the day, after having lost pretty much everything, it was a humbling experience, but it also gave me first-hand knowledge of how tough things are here when you don’t have an income,” Mr Schaefer said of his initial retail failure.
“Robin Hood always catered to the people, not only because we offered things typically at lower prices than everyone else, but it forced the competitor to lower their prices as well.
“Whether you shopped with Robin Hood or not, you still benefited from the presence of Robin Hood. The absence of Robin Hood has been felt by everyone because they have seen that prices have gone up.”
Mr Schaefer added: “I’m going to go back to my roots and that is purchasing. For the last 13 -14 months I haven’t sat idly by. I have established some good contacts in the US, where we can get things here at prices that have never been seen before.”
Mr Schaefer said plans were also underway for water production and the establishment of a cannery on New Providence.
“We have a water plant at Prince Charles that produces 40,000 gallons of clean drinking water a day, because it was the former Pepsi plant,” he said.
“We are upgrading that and the capacity of it, but what we are going to do is make water free for people.
“We’re also investing in a cannery Nassau so we can control the pricing of things, because we understand that if a vendor brings something in from the United States then he has costs which he has to defray, and the way to do that typically is by adding a margin which is anywhere from 30-40 per cent,” Mr Schaefer added.
“By us controlling that, and basically vertically integrating our supply line, we can take an item that should be selling in store today for $0.89 but happens to be selling for $1.89, and we can bring the price back down to $0.89.
“I think that, in general, customers can expect somewhere around a 15-20 per cent decrease in food costs. There are certain items we are going to be bringing, and because of the supply lines they could be looking at a 60 per cent savings.”
Tribune Business exclusively revealed last September that Mr Schaefer was trying to re-open the former Robin Hood stores under the Shepherd’s Mart brand.
Acknowledging then that he had “the wind knocked out of us” when Robin Hood was forced to close in early 2012, a move that cost some 65 jobs, Mr Schaefer indicated he still has big plans for the Prince Charles Drive site, which is the old Pepsi-Cola plant location.
He told Tribune Business he still aimed to construct a “world class shopping centre” at the site, a move that could ultimately see 350-400 Bahamians employed.
Robin Hood was forced to close after suffering a $3.6 million net loss in its last year in business, but Mr Schaefer’s optimism is seemingly undaunted, as he suggested he planned to ‘return to his roots’ in appliances and other goods, sourcing factory items and direct imports from China.
“My intentions are to serve the Bahamian people once again with the best prices and best items,” Mr Schaefer said.
“The Bahamian people appreciate somebody who’s been knocked down and get’s back up again more than anyone else, because it happens to them.
“We got the wind knocked out of us, but I still have the intention of developing a first-class shopping centre there after the opening, and it’ll be an addition of 75,000-100,000 square feet. I hope to employ around 350-400 Bahamians once it’s fully complete and developed.”