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Self-checkout for Hi-Lo?

GraceKennedy looks to self-checkout machines at Hi-Lo

Business observer

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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Conglomerate GraceKennedy (GK) Group hopes to include self-checkout machines at its Hi-Lo Food Stores across the island in keeping with strategic goals to become a global consumer group.

Speaking at an investor briefing last Thursday, GK Group CEO Don Wehby said in addition to launching the Hi-Lo online shopping portal by year end, GraceKennedy reckons that with the right capital investment and training, self-checkout machines could prove a win-win situation for both consumers and the Hi-Lo brand.

Last September the company completed renovation at the Portmore Pines Hi-Lo Food Store, following on-schedule completion of Hi-Lo Manor Park in 2014, Barbican in 2015, and both Liguanea and Montego Bay in 2016.

The renovation exercise will continue on a phased basis for the 13 Hi-Lo stores across the island at a cost of US$8 million. The renovation of Hi-Lo Cross Roads in Kingston is slated for completion this year and the Spanish Town branch shortly after as GraceKennedy seeks to match best-in-class standards of some of the most successful supermarkets in North America.

“In the past when you spoke about digitalisation, strategically as a CEO we said it was nice to do. But I can tell you it is a must to do now if you are going to stay relevant in this world,” Wehby said.

“I use the remittance business as a prime example. The growth of cash-to-cash services worldwide is about two per cent, but when we looked at the digital growth in the remittance business, that was growing 25 to 30 per cent annually,” he continued.

Wehby, in noting that there will be a gradual shift in how money is received from overseas, reasoned that it is the main motivation behind the company investing significant amount of time and money in the development of new products along the digital platform.

“The first one is very exciting —; it's now in the pilot stage and we expect to have full roll-out within the next few months. You are going to be seeing from a GraceKennedy Group point of view a number of services being offered over the digital platform, and I think that's going to be a key area of how this company stays relevant, consumer-centric and how we are going to grow not only in Jamaica but through the world,” he said.

In fact, GraceKennedy will be launching a financial service mobile app come August for on-the-go money, banking and insurance services.

“This is going to change the landscape in terms of how we conduct our financial services business. I think the millennials are really going to embrace this technology where they can stay on their phone and do most, if not all, of their financial transactions,” the CEO said.

The conglomerate is also looking to set up an innovation centre in its new downtown Kingston headquarters, which is on track to be completed by December. Earlier this month GraceKennedy, in its audited financials, showed a milestone $92.48 billion in revenue, supported by growth in both its food and financial segments which were resilient in the face of a challenging year.

The company hopes to reach $100 billion in annual revenue before 2020 and continues to look at acquisitions for the group both in financial services and foods as the main drivers of the revenue growth.

Wehby disclosed that the company is actively looking at Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana to expand the financial services businesses.

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