Price hike claim irks merchants

Many store owners and managers have frowned upon the idea of shops increasing prices just before Christmas, a claim that was made in a recent Letter to the Editor in the Caymanian Compass.

A letter from reader Martha Connolly published earlier this month outlined how she had been shopping for last minute goods in a couple of stores which had one price on them on 23 December and a higher price on Christmas Eve. The stores were not named in the letter.

Owner of The Book Nook Barbara Levy said she feels putting prices up at the last minute is a disgusting thing to do and she would never do it.

‘It’s a disgraceful thing. I’d give stuff away before I’d do that,’ she stated.

‘If I knew who it was I’d never walk in their store.’

One of the co-owners of Atlantic and Atlantic Kids Annette Scott said she was upset when she read the letter because she feels it could have planted a seed of doubt in loyal customers’ heads. As a business owner she felt it was unfair to have published that Letter to the Editor without a story investigating the matter being printed at the same time.

She stated that her store does not engage in increasing prices at the last minute before Christmas. ‘We don’t do that and I don’t know how people in other businesses have the time to do that because it’s so busy and all the time is taken up serving customers,’ she said.

‘I don’t know anything about anybody else’s business but there could have been a genuine reason why that was done,’ she said. ‘It could have been established what happened and if there was an error before printing the letter. We’ve all been shoppers everywhere and it could have been a processing error,’ she said.

Atlantic has been 30 years in operation in the Cayman Islands and Mrs. Scott said, ‘There are retailers that have served this country for so many years and try to do so with honesty and integrity. I feel there should be some value on what we do rather than being placed in a negative light,’ she said.

‘We pay the salaries of Customs, the port, gas stations and further the country through our business,’ she added.

Operations manager with Reflections stores Lennie Jackson said that no such thing could have happened at his stores because there simply wouldn’t be time to change the prices.

Citing the large Reflections store at the Mirco Centre, he said: ‘Everything is priced manually and to have to go around a couple of days before Christmas and change the prices on 15,000 or 20,000 items, we’d never have it done,’ he said.

The only time a price change would occur at Reflections stores would be if there was a mark-up from the distributor; they would then adjust their prices accordingly, he commented.

‘We don’t regularly change prices,’ he said.

In fact, Mr. Jackson said that Reflections is about driving down prices.

‘That’s how our business works,’ he said. ‘We have a high volume of turnover, but at a low profit margin,’ he said.

At Funky Tangs, Supervisor Treena Watler said that the only reason their prices change is if they run out of stock and get items back in that were a higher price to buy.

‘What’s in stock does not change,’ she said. ‘We try to keep our prices low.’

She herself had never encountered stores hiking prices before Christmas like that, she said.

Marketing manager with Kirk Freeport Lance Kidder said that hiking prices just before Christmas is certainly not a policy of theirs.

He said when the Letter to the Editor appeared in the paper in did raise some concern and they researched whether it happened in their stores and found that was no the case.

‘Price increases are dictated by our manufacturers and we only raise them if the manufacturers instruct us to,’ he said, adding that he was not aware of any manufacturer instructing a price increase around that time.

‘As busy as our stores are, I don’t know how we’d have time to do a price increase before Christmas,’ he said.

Owner of Little Darlings Donna Daije said she is totally against increasing prices in such a way and emphasised that it was not their store that engaged in such activity.

While she said she understands this has happened in the past, she hopes that it does not continue.

‘It’s very sad that people have to do that,’ she said.

Marketing co-ordinator with Island Companies Rich Dyer said: ‘We would never do that. We’re always looking to drop our prices.

‘Everything we do is about lowering costs and lowering the price to consumers.’

Mr. Dyer said that he was amazed that stores would have done that in what are now very competitive market conditions.