Whatever one may say about the present administration, it cannot be denied that businesses and shopping have exploded across the land in the last two decades, but more so, as always, in Georgetown. The burgeoning crowds and sales have tested the systems put in place by our merchants to rake in those sales. We believe it is to their interest – and the interest of the long-suffering shopper who is forced to deal with milling crowds reminiscent of the Chicago stockyards – that this be done most efficiently.
Sadly this is far from being the case today – and we are not even considering the pandemonium that routinely reigns on the pavements in front of the stores.
The secret of merchandising is to “turn over the merchandise”: that is, to generate as much sales in a given timeframe as possible so that the fixed overhead expenses are spread over the greatest sales figure. Advertisements and commercials serve to generate the “bodies” that want to part with their money. It is up to the merchants to come up with systems to ensure that the “parting” is accomplished in the shortest possible time with the least “pain”. The “fleeciers” and the “fleeced” would both be happiest. Sadly, the realities of Guyana have not delivered this happy state of affairs and the result is that we have ever-larger milling crowds that become frustrated (because they can’t spend their money fast enough!) and merchants with stagnant stocks tying up scarce cash.
One of the major hurdles that prevent the smooth transfer of funds from shoppers’ pockets to merchants’ cash registers is the elaborate systems put into place to prevent “pilferage”. Guyana is not the only place in the world where there is pilferage from businesses. In fact the practice is so universal that staid accountants have an expression for it – “shrinkage” and make yearly provisions for this factor. We all eventually pay for “shrinkage” but that is another story.
However, it appears that in Guyana, the magnitude of the “shrinkage” is so great (or the ingenuity of our merchant class is so lacking) that the systems instituted actually prevent the smooth transfer exchange of money for goods. And our economy suffers – not to mention the national frustration level and the bruising of the shopping spirit.
“Shrinkage” can occur at several points and be generated from different sets of actors. Firstly there is your everyday, garden-variety “shoplifter”. Our merchants employ an ever-increasing number of guards and have them strategically (hopefully) placed to nip these pilferers. While these guards do stop random (we don’t have “profiling” in Guyana, do we?) shoppers and check their bags, this practice does not seem to cause major delays. The major disruptions are generated by the stratagems to stop employee theft or employees connivance with thefts – both from the points of sales and the points of receiving and shipping.
Elaborate multiple-employee cross-checks are employed to prevent collusion between shoppers and employees. In some stores a simple purchase may involve the hapless shopper being bounced off a serial stream of four or even five transactions. And these are very frustrating and prevent rapid (and money-making) “turnover”.
In even the most up-to-date upscale stores with fancy computerised registers, the internal crosschecks put a brake on smooth traffic flow. At the other ends (literally) of the merchandising cycle – receiving and shipping – there are also huge blockages. And these blockages are colossal.
The point being made is that as our merchants attempt to enter the twenty-first century of “merchandising”, they have to become more aware of the need to improve the efficiency in moving the customers and goods through his stores. They have to come up with new methodologies for securing their interests – which includes selling their merchandise, in addition to avoiding pilferage. Why haven’t more of them, for instance, installed the less obtrusive closed circuit cameras to monitor transactions all across their stores?
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