A shift in approach by creditors and financiers, compounded by market forces and emerging businesses, has caused the Georgetown-based Nigel’s Supermarket to significantly scale down its operations.
However, proprietor Nigel Johnson says he will do all in his power to return the business to its former glory as one of the country’s leading supermarkets. “The answer is no, we are not closing. We are in this for the long haul,” Johnson told Stabroek News, when asked if he was closing down the supermarket.
“It is a very competitive environment and as of late has been very challenging with lots of dynamics, but I want my customers to know that I try every possible option available to keep the business and with their help and the grace of God, we will get back and even better than what we were,” he added.
In an interview with Stabroek News, Johnson was asked about plans for the supermarket after numerous concerns were raised by his customers about the “almost ghostly” appearance of the supermarket as many shelves were bare. The freezer section where meat and fish are sold is no longer there.
Johnson explained that he has been facing some challenges stemming mostly from his creditors having scaled back the amounts they previously extended to him and current outstanding debts. This in turn has had a trickledown effect on his business, since for him, “less products means less profit, which in turn leads to cuts in staff, etcetera.”
He underscored the importance of him sustaining the business, particularly given its standing as one of the few Afro-Guyanese owned supermarkets and how hard he laboured over the years to see its establishment.
Against this background, he said that he made a calculated decision to undertake a restructuring of the business, which will see him selling off some of his other assets, such as properties, to ensure that he services his loans and pays off outstanding debt to his creditors.
Simultaneously, he is exploring other business proposals, such as going into partnership with an investor.
Johnson said that while has also seen many proposals for him to sell the supermarket to both local and foreign businesspersons, he is determined to make the supermarket work and, for now, selling is not an option.
He said he hopes to emerge from the restructuring with a new vision for the supermarket and more than likely a partnership will chart the course ahead.
There are still creditors that have stuck with him and believe that he will be able to successfully resuscitate the supermarket and it is for this reason that the many shelves are still stocked, albeit with a limited variety of things.
As the busy Christmas season approaches, Johnson, who rose from selling in a small stall at Bourda Market, is asking his loyal customers to have faith in him and continue their purchases, however small. “We will be opened for business every day and you know as the Christmas season approaches I am taking it one day at a time. I want our customers to know how appreciative I am of their loyal services through the years and I am so sorry that we are not able to meet their needs as they are accustomed,” he said.
“I cannot say enough how thankful I am for my customers’ loyalty and while I don’t have the full complement, rest assured that with God’s help, I will do whatever it takes to bring back to my customers what they want. I am asking them to please bear with me and please keep shopping whatever we have, it means so much….We remain true to our motto ‘Always willing to serve,’” he added.
Nigel’s Supermarket set the standard in local supermarkets here when the establishment opened over two decades ago. The store offered services such as dedicated customer parking, loyalty reward points, every day discounts for seniors and public servants and tele-shopping and home delivery.
The supermarket has been a longtime sponsor of many sporting tournaments, especially in tennis and has made significant philanthropic donations throughout the country since its emergence.
The freezer section that held meats and fish has been removed