MP Emmanuel puts retail prices on the agenda; Le Grand Marché reactsPOSTED: 09/17/15 12:44 AM
Game on: Carrefour ready for the battle with Super U
St. Maarten – National Alliance MP Christophe Emmanuel brought the price differences between supermarkets on the Dutch and the French side into focus at a press conference in the parliament building yesterday morning, but Anil Sabnani, managing director of Le Grand Marché is not buying his story. “He should compare apples with apples, not a private brand like Super U with a top of the line national brand like Frisian Flag and Yoplait. He should have compared Super U prices with Carrefour brands that are available now in our store.”
Emmanuel invited journalists to his office yesterday morning to express his concerns about the prices for basic items at local supermarkets. He went shopping at Le Grand Marché on Busch road and, on the French side, in the Howell Center at Super U. For a small sample of what the MP considered comparable products, he paid $28 at le Grand Marché and $16 at Super U– a difference of 75 percent.
At Le Grand Marché, Emmanuel bought six liter packs of Frisian Flag skimmed milk, five nectarines, twelve eggs and eight small containers of Panier Yoplait yoghurt.
At Super U he bought six liter packs of Super U skimmed milk, seven nectarines and the same number of eggs and yoghurt containers from the same brand.
For the Frisian flag milk, Emmanuel paid $11.46; the Super U milk cost him just $6.05. The yoghurt cost 14.21 guilders ($7.94) at Le Grand Marché and $3.34 at Super U. The Dutch-side supermarket charges 12.99 guilders ($7.25) per kilo for the nectarines, Super U $3.50.
“What I am really upset about is the eggs,” Emmanuel said. “They come from Colombier and both stores sell the same eggs. On the Dutch side they cost 9.44 guilders ($5.27) and on the French side $4.07.”
Le grand Marché has all these products on the Carrefour brand which are cheaper. A Carrefour six-pack costs $6.21, a private brand milk six-pack costs $4.86, Carrefour yoghurt four-l=pack $0.92, nectarines from France are $3.06 per kilo and a six-pack of Carrefour eggs is $2.81.
Emmanuel notes that Members of Parliament (himself included), ministers, police officers, judges and prosecutors are all shopping at Super U. “It’s like a government reunion in there. Why is everybody shopping there and why is nobody asking questions? The people are ripped off and the government is not doing a good job with price controls and controls on the quality of goods.”
The MP says that he initially thought that the containers for Super U came on the island via Galis Bay and that the container fees explained the price differences. “But no,” he said yesterday, “those containers also come through the port in Pointe Blanche.”
Emmanuel does not have any action in mind to deal with the situation. “I want to create awareness about all this and ask the Secretary-General at economic affairs and the Minister what their opinion is about these price differences. The government has to find mechanisms to control price gauging.” The MP’s concerns are about “price gauging and about the price differences at the different branches of Le Grand Marché. A fish burger in a fast food restaurant is the same price all over the island.”
Emmanuel wants the government to take a serious look at the situation. “What are the answers from the wholesalers? Give us a reason,” he said.
“Super U is a private label, you cannot compare those prices with national labels,” he told this newspaper yesterday. “Mr. Emmanuel should compare Super U prices with Carrefour prices,” Anil Sabnani at Le Grand Marché says.
The company is not sitting by idly. There is fierce competition in the food retail sector. “We are changing our store in Cole Bay into a Carrefour Market,” Sabnani says. “Carrefour is a well-known brand in Europe and it is rated well above Super U products. The store gets a complete upgrade. We will launch the new store in the first week of November.”
The Cole Bay outlet of Le Grand Marché will be restyled based on Carrefour specification.
Sabnani wonders why Emmanuel is suddenly bringing up the price differences. “I do not know what his motives are, but I will call him and ask him if he understands the food industry. It is very unfortunate that he takes a stand against a local businessman on the Dutch side.”
Sabnani extends an invitation to Emmanuel: “I kindly invite him to Cole Bay to check out our Carrefour products. In every food category we will have the Carrefour brand. We like to give our clients a choice.”
With the introduction if Carrefour, Le Grand Marché will step up the competition with Super U. “They are nervous now,” Sabnani says. We will bring one of the biggest ranges of organic products under the Carrefour label. We advise our clients to compare wisely – Carrefour versus Super U. And remember, Carrefour is a better brand in private label.”
For shoppers there seem to be better times ahead – proof that the market will always correct itself. “Why is something cheaper?” Sabnani says. “It’s about the quality. Carrefour is the best private label in Europe. From November, shoppers will see better prices under the Carrefour label in Cole Bay. We beat the Super U prices. That will make a big difference in people’s weekly shopping.”
“While our honorable MP is looking at food prices he should also look at our utilities cost which is three times more than the French side,” Sabnani says. “Our turnover tax on Dutch side has a multiple effect and we support all our local distributors (while Super U does not contribute to any). If local distributors are eliminated more than 600 persons will be out of jobs. Furthermore, Super U got a lot of tax breaks from the French government. We are reinvesting in Carrefour to bring cheaper prices to the Dutch side without any help from our honorable MP. Please be advised that Le Grand Marché Group of Companies (Carrefour market) will make a difference and moreover we are here for the people of St. Maarten.”