By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Super Value's president yesterday hailed the supermarket industry's reclamation of its full hours and Sunday shopping, saying: "Our prayers have been answered."
Rupert Roberts told Tribune Business that the Retail Grocers Association and its members had obtained "'everything we requested" from the Government apart from the traditional extension of shopping hours to 11pm on Christmas Eve.
Describing the previous 5pm Saturday closure, due to the 6pm curfew, as "unbearable", the Super Value chief revealed he had written four letters to the Prime Minister's Office in the previous three weeks prior to the easing of restrictions arguing for a loosening on the basis that COVID-19 numbers had sharply reduced.
"The whole country is very happy about the new hours we have been given," Mr Roberts told this newspaper. "We were very impatient. In the past three weeks I had written four letters requesting an extension of the Saturday hours because we had unbearable hours to work in.
"We had to work in the confines of the hours they gave us, and it wasn't working. We couldn't get our sales in. We kept pointing it out to them. We wrote and notified them of what we wanted as Christmas hours, and they took everything into consideration and gave us everything we requested and what we wanted. Our prayers have been answered."
Disclosing that the Retail Grocers Association and Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) had also written to the Prime Minister's Office on the issue, Mr Roberts confirmed that food stores had regained Sunday shopping as well as all their hours during the week.
"The Prime Minister did promise me three weeks ago that if the cases go down he would give us what we wanted," he added. "The cases did go down and he gave us what we wanted and requested. It gave us a sense of relief, and gave merchants and consumers a sense of freedom.
"If we do the right thing we'll have a good Christmas with the economy we have. Hopefully it goes into the New Year. The economy is bouncing up a little." Mr Roberts, though, warned that keeping the present hours depends on Bahamians maintaining their discipline and keeping the COVID-19 infection rates down.
"We could lose it again," he said. "The only thing he [Dr Hubert Minnis] did not give us is that normally on Christmas Eve customers shop everywhere else and come to the supermarket last, and we're forced to stay open until 11pm.
"We requested that, but he only gave us until 9pm. We'll have to manage with that. If cases go down further the Retail Grocers Association will go back to them and ask for the traditional Christmas Eve hours. If things go good we'll be tempted to go back and ask for 11pm on Christmas Eve."