RETAILERS do not set prices, and supermarkets have not increased the prices of their goods for this year said Raijiv Diptee, head of the Supermarket Association of TT, when he spoke at a retail sector seminar at the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business in Mt Hope last week.
Diptee told his audience supermarkets are “price takers.” as they buy goods from their suppliers and distributors to retail “at a rate of return that is determined by the cover required for that operation to do business and meet its expenses and pay its bills.”
Diptee said so far for this year there had been “no systemic price increases” of goods by supermarkets, and explained this has been achieved by supermarkets “playing an integral part in contributing to lower food prices.”
Diptee added that many of the association’s members cut their margins “in order to meet the pockets of consumers and to share the burden of volatile food prices.”
Noting the effects of economic contraction on different parts of the country, Diptee said many businesses in south communities have closed, and asked whether this signalled an erosion of the middle class.
He said businesses that adapt by focusing on customer service and adopting leaner structures, are able to survive.
San Juan Business Association president Vivek Charran said some people claim business people criticise the economy but are making money.
“That is not the case,” Charran said.
He said business people comment on what they see happening through their businesses and about their customers’ experiences.
According to Charran, one of the scariest things for business people to do is raise the prices of the commodities they sell.
Business people, he continued, “do not set prices to make money.”
Charran said business people are paid last, after they meet other obligations such as paying their workers and suppliers.
Saying retail is an indicator of consumer confidence, Charran wondered if people’s disposable incomes are shrinking. “Are customers becoming richer or poor,” he asked.