I cheered the day the retail law was finally passed. I have always believed that the local retail industry was depressing when compared to many other countries because of strange distortions such as a near monopoly on large retail locations by mall owners, a strange stranglehold on large scale importations of goods, a highly inefficient distribution system and a whole host of problems that means we generally had less choice of goods, higher prices, erratic supplies and mostly pathetic service at most large retail outlets. If Shoemart (and I generally like Shoemart), for example, is the best we have to offer for middle to upper-class consumers, where when you buy shoes there are 48 different salespeople and they will only help you if you pick up their brand of shoe, because they are salaried representatives of the manufacturer and the not the retailer, then you get the picture (this also applies to appliances)â€¦ The retail law was supposed to herald the entry of seasoned retailers and to raise the level of competition which inevitably would benefit the consumers. Or at least that was the plan. So when Price Smart announced it was opening as the first large scale beneficiary of the new retail law, I was one of the first to apply for a card, even before it opened its doors for business.
And its first few months were brilliant. Well-stocked stores with merchandise previously unavailable here. I spent an obscene amount of money there and it rapidly accounted for the bulk of our grocery purchases. As the years progressed, problems between the foreign and local partners became apparent and news reports of a serious tiff eventually resulted in the foreign partners leaving, for WHAT EVER reasons. The Filipino partners took over about a year ago. Immediately following that takeover, supply problems became OBVIOUS even to the slowest consumer. Months went by when basics such as Diet Coke would not be stocked. Shelves emptied out and last Christmas they had the most pathetic selection of goods ever. Today I went for the first time in over a month. There are no longer any San Miguel products, the storage shelves are 80% empty, there is no fish section left, and 90% of the fruits and vegetable are GONE. Even the wooden bins used for veggies and other specials are gone. I was done with shopping in 3 minutes as there was simply nothing to buy. And thatâ€™s even before the 1 year transition period where they can still use the Price Smart name applies. When that period is up they donâ€™t even have that.
My Price Smart card expires tomorrow. And I donâ€™t think I will renew it. Just like I allowed my wifeâ€™s card to expire a few months ago and one of my employees as well. What is the use? Why pay for a membership to a store that is nearly empty? I was so irked in fact I asked to talk to the manager. All of the regular employees I had seen over the years were gone. Many of the cashiers and other floor staff have changed. The Manager lamely suggested they were having delivery problems. I asked â€œdelivery problems, for 9 months???â€ He then readily admitted they werenâ€™t able to pay the suppliers so they wouldnâ€™t send any goods. Duhh. Thatâ€™s not delivery problems, those are liquidity problems. And if I were him, I wouldnâ€™t say that in public either. I donâ€™t know enough about the internal details to comment about those, but I am a frequent shopper there and I can tell you it appears they are on their last legsâ€¦ and I am annoyed. How hard is it to manage a glorified large grocery? Is the Philippine business environment so convoluted, so difficult, so riddled with illogical and irrational behavior that a simple food store canâ€™t figure it out? And, actually, BRAVO to the American partners who figured this out earlier and bailed out. They left the locals who were agitating so much to sink even FURTHER into the abyss. But do I really care about the owners? No, I just lament the lack of choice for the consumers. Boo, to Price Smart/their new local owners. A BIG FAT BOO!!! Can anyone point me to a suitable alternative? Is that place in Libis any better? Why is it that almost all other Asian neighbors with reasonably open import policies have far better groceries and wholesale clubs??? Who cares if we are able to send 8 million people to work abroad if the precious funds they send home can’t even buy a reasonably priced cart full of groceries? If I had the capital, I would open MarketManila – the ultimate food emporium.. But then again, if I had to deal with the import system, the distribution system, the cartels in vegetables and other food items, the four folks who control 50% of canned goods in the Philippines, and folks who cannot, even under the threat of severe torture, not say “POR A WHYEL…OUT OP STUCK,” I too, would FAIL.
POST UPDATE : Since this post was written, S&R has had a change in ownership and management. Marketman is again an avid customer of the store and service and product selection has improved dramatically. Nov. 2007