‘We buried hatchet’ over retail closure


Rupert Roberts

• Super Value chief ‘bit the bullet’ on Bed, Bath and Home

• Says losses meant they were ‘fighting a losing battle’

• High costs, low volumes and new competition all factors


Tribune Business Editor


Super Value’s principal has revealed he and his family “bit the bullet” in closing their loss-making Harbour Bay housewares retailer, adding: “We were fighting a losing battle so we buried the hatchet.”

Rupert Roberts, explaining the rationale for Bed, Bath and Home’s recent shuttering, told Tribune Business this week that “we didn’t see the future” for the format after COVID-19 lockdowns and associated restrictions devastated the Bahamian economy in 2020 and for much of 2021.

Besides the pandemic’s fall-out, he cited numerous other factors that drove the closure such as high rent, slow inventory turnover, increased competition with AID (Automotive Industrial Distributors) recently opening a rival store in the Harbour Bay Shopping Centre, and the distraction it caused by taking management focus and attention away from the core Super Value/Quality Supermarkets food business.

Noting that his supermarkets “carry over 50 percent” of the products previously offered at Bed, Bath and Home, Mr Roberts voiced optimism that “we’re going to pick up most of the sales” that the Harbour Bay store generated via its core retail format.

“It was sort of out of our line of business,” he explained of the housewares retailer. “We could do better putting our resources elsewhere. It was never successful; high inventory, slow turnover. Over 50 percent of the items we carry anyway, so we will take them into our inventory from the sale. It was also high rent....

“AID had also come into the shopping centre; that was more competition. It was the same type of merchandise that AID and Kelly’s Home Centre carry anyway. There was no point in paying additional rent and having 14 stores, so we amalgamated it into our 13th store. It wasn’t worth it.

“It wasn’t up to supermarket-type volumes. We were fighting a losing battle, so we buried the hatchet.... We didn’t see the future when the economy got so bad in the middle of the virus, so we decided to bite the bullet,” Mr Roberts told Tribune Business. 

“We didn’t have the control that we have in the supermarkets. The accounting control, the strict inventory count every four weeks. That wasn’t the way we are in the food industry. It was too loose, and there were losses from lack of volume or challenges with having lots of [stock] shortages. There were high expenses and lack of volume. We’re going to pick up most of the sales that they were getting.”

Bed, Bath and Home had been a presence at Harbour Bay’s East Bay Street shopping plaza for many years, situated between Domino’s Pizza and John Bull. While not giving any figures on the extent of the losses, or how many staff were impacted, Mr Roberts said just one worker had transferred to Super Value upon the closure.

While this switch had been offered to all Bed, Bath and Home employees, he added: “After they knew we were closing, they found jobs elsewhere. They didn’t stay. I think there was only one that stayed with us. We could have used them in the health and beauty sections and non-food merchandise.”

Mr Roberts also suggested that Harbour Bay has “a parking problem” with insufficient spaces to meet demand, adding that when he visited Bed, Bath and Home he frequently struggled to find somewhere to leave his vehicle. 

“My son had opened it. I have been urging my son for years to close it,” the Super Value chief said of Bed, Bath and Home. It was losing too much to keep open, and every time I told my son to close it he said: ‘Let’s give it until Christmas, let’s give it until Easter. It was his baby and he didn’t want to close it.

“It wasn’t serious losses; it just wasn’t making anything. Why put out that effort? We were so successful in the supermarket business; let it go. It was distracting my son from the Super Value business. He’s good at supervision, and it took him away from Super Value to tend to that. There were so many reasons not to fight the closure.”

Super Value performed accounting and administrative functions for Bed, Bath and Home, but Mr Roberts said they were “having to stay behind it” constantly to obtain regular financial statements, reports and inventory counts on the latter.

Given all these concerns, he added that Bed, Bath and Home was allowed to stay open through Christmas and close at the end of January. Taylor Industries, the former electrical retailer and contractor, followed a similar strategy with its closure, while Galleria Cinemas and the Outback Steakhouse also closed their doors earlier this year.

However, Mr Roberts struck an optimistic tone on the Bahamian economy’s near-term prospects with ever-recovering tourism demand set to keep soaring inflation at bay in the short-term. “The economy seems to be picking up. I hear the hotels talking about being back at or near 2019 figures and so on,” he told Tribune Business. “I think we’re going to be getting close to that.

“The consumers, after they all go back to work and pay their bills, they can budget better and pay the higher prices for food, catch up with school fees and payments for fuel.” However, headwinds and risks to the Bahamian economy’s continued recovery progress remain.


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