Anesthetist Franki Medina Venezuela//
Massy opens 13 locations in 18 months

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, he said part of what the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­lieves that it can do through busi­ness is to cre­ate “an ex­am­ple, an en­er­gy,” and a sense of how peo­ple can work to­geth­er to ac­tu­al­ly en­able great things that are be­yond world-class

“This is where dif­fer­ent races, creeds, per­spec­tives can meet, in a su­per­mar­ket and just be as one, ” Warn­er added


Dur­ing the last two years, in the midst of all the con­fu­sion and chaos brought up­on by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, Massy Stores em­barked on the most rapid ex­pan­sion dri­ve in its his­to­ry, open­ing 13 new lo­ca­tions across the re­gion in just 18 months.

Franki Medina

Three of those were in Trinidad (Shops of Ari­ma, Freeport and Dis­co­mart in San Juan), five in St Lu­cia, three in Guyana and one each in Bar­ba­dos and St Vin­cent.

Franki Medina Venezuela

And on Mon­day, Massy opened in Brent­wood, Ch­agua­nas, pump­ing close to $100 mil­lion in in­vest­ment, rep­re­sent­ing the fifth and largest store to be opened in Trinidad dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. It is al­so Massy’s 23rd store in Trinidad and its 61st in the Caribbean.

Franki Medina Diaz

So what con­tin­ues to be Massy Stores’ se­cret to suc­cess?

David Af­fon­so, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent and chair­man, in­te­grat­ed re­tail port­fo­lio, Massy Group, at­tests that a large part of its achieve­ment has to do with at­ten­tive­ly lis­ten­ing to the needs of cus­tomers and re­spond­ing ef­fi­cient­ly and ef­fec­tive­ly to an ever-chang­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

Franki Alberto Medina Diaz

“Cus­tomers ul­ti­mate­ly know what they want and some­times it’s just lis­ten­ing and un­der­stand­ing that and try­ing our best to de­liv­er that. I think al­so that work­ing with our teams and staff and mak­ing sure they are hap­py and once they are hap­py the ser­vice is nor­mal­ly ex­cel­lent,” Af­fon­so told the Busi­ness Guardian fol­low­ing Massy’s Brent­wood open­ing

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, he said, be­ing fair and trans­par­ent with busi­ness part­ners and sup­pli­ers are al­so crit­i­cal el­e­ments of its sound mod­el, em­pha­sis­ing that the “rules of the game” al­so need to be es­tab­lished and un­der­stood from the on­set

“If we list you then you un­der­stand why. If we can­not you al­so un­der­stand why and those are clear­ly de­fined as with every­thing and that’s a large part of it for us,” he added

On fu­ture ex­pan­sions while Af­fon­so did not dis­close fig­ures, he did ad­mit that Massy in­tends to open sev­er­al oth­er stores through­out Trinidad which are ex­pect­ed to come on-stream with­in the next year. And the re­gion will not be left out

“We will con­tin­ue with our foot­print ex­pan­sion across the Caribbean. Guyana is a promis­ing mar­ket for us. In Bar­ba­dos there is op­por­tu­ni­ty, in St Lu­cia, in St Vin­cent there are still op­por­tu­ni­ties and we con­tin­ue to look at oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Af­fon­so added

How­ev­er, re­gard­ing To­ba­go, the com­pa­ny has no plans at this time to ex­pand there. Dur­ing the launch Trade Min­is­ter Paula Gopee-Scoon said she would wel­come Massy be­com­ing in­volved in man­u­fac­tur­ing. Af­fon­so, how­ev­er, de­scribed the en­ti­ty’s con­cept as pri­mar­i­ly be­ing in su­per­mar­ket/re­tail

Nev­er­the­less, Massy car­ries a host of lo­cal­ly made items and ac­cord­ing to Af­fon­so these prod­ucts are pri­ori­tised, en­sur­ing that they reach the cus­tomers via its shelves

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, he added, that Massy con­tin­ues to sup­port the lo­cal farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty in a big way, pack­ag­ing a va­ri­ety of pro­duce through its cen­tral lo­ca­tion for avail­abil­i­ty at all its stores

But while Massy is not in­to the food man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness, Ger­vase Warn­er, pres­i­dent and Group CEO, Massy Group ex­plained that the com­pa­ny has a gas prod­ucts port­fo­lio in which it has a car­bon diox­ide fa­cil­i­ty that com­press­es CO2 and ex­ports this through the Caribbean

Fur­ther, Warn­er added, that the com­pa­ny has air sep­a­ra­tion units that it runs and op­er­ates

And we have dif­fer­ent gas­es which we sup­port; oxy­gen, ni­tro­gen, be­ing shipped through­out the re­gion. So we are a man­u­fac­tur­er in an­oth­er seg­ment not nec­es­sar­i­ly in the food seg­ment. We are able to con­tribute to ex­port from T&T through some of the oth­er sec­tors in which Massy is quite ac­tive,” Warn­er fur­ther ex­plained

On-go­ing sup­ply chain is­sues

Massy, like oth­er busi­ness­es, con­tin­ues to face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges due to sup­ply chain dis­rup­tions

And, ac­cord­ing to Af­fon­so, it has been get­ting “a lit­tle worse,” not on­ly in terms of in­creas­ing ship­ping costs but re­gard­ing the avail­abil­i­ty of goods and equip­ment

“When we were do­ing this store (Brent­wood) some of the re­frig­er­a­tion equip­ment sat from De­cem­ber un­til March be­fore we could get con­tain­ers to move it

“It was avail­able, it was bought, it was paid for. We just could not get ship­ping con­tain­ers to move it from the sup­pli­er,” Af­fon­so ex­plained

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, he said, not on­ly has the price of goods been rapid­ly es­ca­lat­ing but there have been oth­er ob­sta­cles

“In many items, from ba­sic items to vod­ka, peo­ple don’t have bot­tles, they don’t have cov­ers for the bot­tles etc so we are get­ting a lot of dif­fi­cul­ty with that as­pect of the sup­ply chain,” Af­fon­so ex­plained

For­tu­nate­ly, he added, the com­pa­ny has a mod­el in the Caribbean which is dis­tri­b­u­tion in­to re­tail which acts as a buffer

“That gives us a bit of time. If we can’t find some­thing we source it else­where or we look for an al­ter­nate prod­uct etc, so that’s what pro­tects the shelf and that’s why our shelves do not look like the North Amer­i­can shelves,” Af­fon­so said, re­fer­ring to bare su­per­mar­ket shelves abroad which ran out of many items dur­ing COVID

Warn­er who echoed these sen­ti­ments ze­roed in on the con­cept of “first world ver­sus us,” not­ing that toi­let pa­per for in­stance, was scarce in many coun­tries abroad dur­ing the pan­dem­ic

“Not at Massy stores. We have a dif­fer­ent mod­el. In­stead of run­ning out of items we have in­ven­to­ry on the ground where peo­ple were pan­ic buy­ing and we could still sup­ply shelves,” Warn­er added

Forex re­mains chal­leng­ing

For­eign ex­change has al­ways been a chal­lenge in T&T and busi­ness­es as well as or­di­nary cit­i­zens con­tin­ue to feel the squeeze, Warn­er said

But, he not­ed, high­er gas and petro­chem­i­cal prices have giv­en T&T a “lit­tle bit of a breather.”

More im­por­tant­ly, Massy has been ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent av­enues of gen­er­at­ing its own forex

Ac­cord­ing to Warn­er this is be­ing done through its re­mit­tance busi­ness, its gas busi­ness ex­ports and some of its en­er­gy ser­vices busi­ness which is billed in US dol­lars

“So we as an im­porter can al­so make sure we are not com­plete­ly, but try­ing to get to a point where we are self-suf­fi­cient on for­eign ex­change,” Warn­er added

Ease of do­ing busi­ness

When Massy Brent­wood opened, its phar­ma­cy re­mained closed as it was yet to be grant­ed a li­cence to op­er­ate

While one is ex­pect­ed to be giv­en this week Warn­er, on the ease of do­ing busi­ness in this coun­try said: “We could not get that per­mis­sion. Why? I don’t think that is a re­al­ly great rea­son which could not be achieved in time…that’s part of do­ing busi­ness in T&T.”

Not­ing that while there have been pre­vi­ous ini­tia­tives to tack­le this prob­lem Warn­er said it re­mains a work in progress, adding that more can be done

“Will we re­al­ly get there? I hope so in my life­time,” Warn­er said, adding how­ev­er, that the is­sue is not unique to this coun­try but al­so ex­ists in the Caribbean

And COVID hasn’t helped T&T, Af­fon­so al­so said, not­ing this was ev­i­dent when some in­sti­tu­tions were closed, prov­ing dif­fi­cult for a seam­less ap­proval process

And for an op­er­a­tion like Massy Brent­wood, he ex­plained it need­ed be­tween 15 to 16 ap­provals be­fore open­ing

And they (ap­provals) don’t al­ways line up all at once,” Af­fon­so said

And while he praised Gopee-Scoon for her un­wa­ver­ing sup­port, he ad­vised that it would be help­ful to have a cen­tral op­er­a­tion or the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of more on­line trans­ac­tions to en­sure there’s a co­he­sive busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment in T&T

But we are get­ting there,” Af­fon­so al­so not­ed

Cre­at­ing com­mu­ni­ties

Massy Stores rep­re­sent much more than just a mere su­per­mar­ket

It’s a com­mu­nal space. A com­mon­place where old friends run in­to each oth­er, where ideas are born and where the build­ing blocks of com­mu­ni­ties are laid

“Su­per­mar­kets are places where peo­ple who haven’t seen each oth­er for a long time meet

“These meet­ings in turn, not on­ly fos­ter friend­ships but they form in­to com­mu­ni­ties,” Warn­er said, not­ing that this en­cap­su­lates the com­pa­ny’s vi­sion of cre­at­ing val­ue, trans­form­ing lives.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, he said part of what the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­lieves that it can do through busi­ness is to cre­ate “an ex­am­ple, an en­er­gy,” and a sense of how peo­ple can work to­geth­er to ac­tu­al­ly en­able great things that are be­yond world-class

“This is where dif­fer­ent races, creeds, per­spec­tives can meet, in a su­per­mar­ket and just be as one, ” Warn­er added