Retailers say price was right

Supermarkets on Grand Cayman have demonstrated their preparedness for a major hurricane, with Fosters, Hurley’s and Kirk Supermarkets all managing to keep stocked with essential hurricane items, despite a deluge of customers prior to Hurricane Dean.


Shoppers stock up at Fosters at the Airport before the arrival of Hurricane Dean. Photo: Jewel Levy

Kirk Home Centre General Manager Bridgette Kirkconnell said its hurricane contingency plans had proved effective, with battery operated fans and inflatable beds the only hurricane supplies to sell out at Kirk stores.

Hurley’s Group Director Randy Merren thanked suppliers for keeping his supermarket stocked with all the essentials.

And despite some suggestions of price gouging from callers to talk-back radio, the three major supermarkets say they made no pricing adjustments whatsoever.

A spokesperson for Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said he was investigating the general matter of price gouging, but did not have any comment at this stage.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said the price gouging law his UDP Government introduced in 2004 had proved effective in dissuading potential price gougers.

In a press release, Fosters Food Fair IGA said it had absorbed the increased shipping cost of air-freighting products, in turn selling products at below cost, to ensure as much stock was available for customers as possible.

Mr. Merren said the idea of upping prices while a hurricane approaches is unthinkable for Hurley’s.

‘We’ve been in business too long. That’s not something you want to be associated with. That’s not the foundation of good business; to do something like that,’ he said.

Ms Kirkconnell said prices remained the same across all Kirk stores.

‘Price gouging is unethical – it’s not something that we would ever consider. Even after Ivan, we kept the same prices. The price book we used before Ivan was the same one we used after.’

On Cayman Brac, Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnel said he had heard no reports of any retailers upping their prices on the Brac.

Some callers to talk-back radio complained about the cost of plywood.

Paul McGeough, Building Materials Manager at Kirk Home Centre said it was important for people to understand that there are different types of plywood with different price tags.

Plywood at Kirk Home Centre started at around $21 per sheet for half-inch untreated CDX plywood and went all the way up to marine plywood, at a cost between $70 and $80 per sheet.

They gradually sold out of the cheaper plywood, but by Sunday morning, higher grade plywood in the vicinity of $38 per sheet was still available.

‘From Wednesday evening our phones were hot and by Thursday, there were truck loads of customers,’ Mr. McGeough said.

‘If you are coming in Saturday evening, don’t expect any cheap ply to be left.’

Ms Kirkconnell thanked Kirk employees, who, she said, had made sacrifices to keep shopping lines moving.

‘When you are in retail, you are there to serve the public, so you and your staff are the last to go make preparations.’

Mr. Merren echoed the sentiment. ‘Our staff, in the whole group of Hurley’s companies, did a tremendous job in preparation for Dean – we were really ready for the storm. We worked long hours. I owe a heartfelt thanks to all of them.’

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