Opinion: Bread prices

POSTED: 01/5/12 1:02 PM

We’ve been looking in bewilderment at the new bread prices Carl’s and Sons announced this week. It sounds like a hardship for minimum wage earners, but there is a real easy solution for this predicament: don’t eat bread. Switch, for instance, to crackers. They stay fresh longer than a loaf of bread; they’re healthier and in the long run therefore cheaper too.

What amazed us is the retail margin on bread.

We noted for instance that the wholesale price for sliced wheat bread is now 2.70 guilders, but the retail price is 3.25 guilders. For some people a 55 cents margin may not seem like a lot, but it is, in fact, a margin of 20.37 percent.

Mind you, we’re not talking about a product that consumers buy every now and then. We’re talking about a basic food item.

Bread is a reason for consumers to go to a store. While they are there, they will most likely also buy other products at outrageous prices. So why take them for a ride with the bread price? We just don’t get it.

We know that other countries have a minimum price for bread. Some supermarkets are ready to give their bread away practically for nothing, just to lure customers to their store.

The department of legal affairs is apparently so overwhelmed with work that it is unable to give Carl’s and Sons an answer to its request to increase the bread price. We read somewhere that the company filed this request one year ago, and still there is no reply.

One year! That’s 365 days, or 8, 760 hours. And nobody has found the time to take a decision about a simple request like this? No wonder Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger said in his New Year’s message that 2012 is going to be a difficult year.

Here is our free advice to all bakers and to all supermarkets: do with your bread price what you want. For the bakers: set it as high as possible. We learned a long time ago that businesses ought to charge what the market will bear. For the supermarkets: pay these bakers a premium for their products and offer it to your clients at a heavy discount. The cheaper the bread, the more clients will come to your store. You will easily earn those discounts back on other products they will buy as well. The supermarket with the lowest bread price is bound to become the most popular outlet on the island. The bakers will be happy as nails, and shoppers will have second thoughts about making the switch from bread to crackers.

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