By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Super Value's principal says he plans to open the supermarket chain at 6am from today in a bid to reclaim some of the shopping hours lost to the new COVID-19 restrictions.
Rupert Roberts told Tribune Business that extending New Providence's curfew, and bringing it forward to 7pm, will cause the 13-store group to shut its doors at 5pm from next week to provide an opportunity for cashiers to cash out and the restocking of shelves.
With the latest measures unveiled by Dr Hubert Minnis already causing "bedlam" at many Super Value stores by early afternoon, with long lines of shoppers eager to stock-up before the weekend lockdown forming outside, Mr Roberts said the failure of many Bahamians to comply with the COVID-19 health protocols had made it impossible to balance health and economic interests.
While opposed to a lockdown that will cost Super Value three sales' days over the upcoming National Heroes holiday weekend, and two on normal weekends, the Super Value chief argued that "we have to support whatever it takes to get rid of the virus".
He revealed that the supermarket chain's overtime bill was now quadruple pre-pandemic levels, standing at $30,000 per week as opposed to the previous $30,000 per month, and said it was "disheartening" that the Government had decided to extend the weekend lockdown beyond the upcoming holiday.
"We're opening at 7am and are going to try to switch to opening at 6am," Mr Roberts told Tribune Business. "We have to take all the hours we can get. We're trying to pick up extra hours because we're losing two at least. We know that when we come to the store at 6am there's going to be lines.
"It's going to be hard for us to get in six shopping days in the next three days. We're not going to get the sales in, and the big problem on Friday is the 7pm curfew, which means we have to really close at 5pm.
"We're going to write to the Competent Authority for permission to stock on Saturdays, the warehouse and the stores, so we can deliver and stock and ensure consumers don't have empty stores on Tuesday."
Mr Roberts added that the enforced switch from a seven-day to five-day week, and reduced hours on the latter days, will cause "chaos for us" by compressing shoppers into a much narrower timeframe. "We are going to catch hell," he said. "It's going to be very hard on our staff, on our cashiers."
Dr Minnis' announcement triggered another rush to the food stores yesterday, with the Super Value chief telling Tribune Business at mid-afternoon: "It's bedlam out there right now. They're lined up outside the stores and it's getting worse by the minute. All the stores are that way now."
Reiterating his opposition to lockdowns, Mr Roberts added: "It doesn't suit us but whatever it takes to get rid of this virus, we have to do and we support it. I would think the Prime Minister's taken the best medical advice and consulted accordingly, and we support it 100 percent.
"We have to work together to get rid of this virus and bring it under control. I don't understand it [the lockdown], but I don't have to. I have to obey and comply."
Mr Roberts said the "total disregard" for COVID-19 health protocols by some made it impossible for the Government to balance health and economic concerns with its latest lockdown measures, and added: "There's no balance because people are not listening. They either don't understand or don't care.
"I don't want to lockdown, but if the powers that be and the medical officials recommend a lockdown, we cannot get out of it."