Video: Furbert says island stores don’t stack up against online competitors
Island retailers have failed to satisfy customer demand which has sparked an increase in people buying online from overseas, a government minister claimed yesterday.
Wayne Furbert, the Cabinet Office minister, admitted his wife was a fan of online shopping and insisted that “every Bermudian is doing it”.
He said it “would help” the situation if Bermudian stores stocked a wider range of products.
Mr Furbert was speaking as he marked World Post Day outside the GPO in Hamilton.
He was questioned about a government plan for the Post Office to go into the import business with MyUS, an American courier firm, to set up MyBermudaPost.
He admitted that island courier firms were not approached before the deal with MyUS was struck.
Mr Furbert said: “Why not? Because we wanted to work with a service overseas which is only providing a service within the United States.
“I did not approach ZipX, I did not approach IBC.”
Sam Brangman, the Postmaster General, stepped in and explained why a request for proposal was not issued so island firms could have put forward proposals as well.
Mr Brangman said: “In 2018, the Post Office issued a request for information and the only two companies that replied to us were IBC and DHL.
“Neither of those companies owned a US address or a facility to accept our mail.
“Hence, we sought another opportunity for the benefit of the post office and our customers.
“If no one replies to the RFI, there’s no need to take it to the next step.”
But Mr Furbert later said that island firms did have depots overseas.
He added when questioned on why Bermudian firms were not asked to provide the same service MyUS had offered: “Why not go somewhere else?”
Mr Furbert was also asked whether the Government was going into competition with island courier firms.
He said: “The Post Office has been around for 200 years, so in other words they’re competing against the Post Office.
“This is nothing new. What we have done is improve the efficiency and the services to get it through MyUS.
“All it is is a vehicle where you are ordering your stuff from New York or wherever, it goes to them and then they deliver it to us.
“We’re just providing a better service. US Postal Service has always been a service that we’ve provided.”
The Royal Gazette e-mailed a series of questions about MyBermudaPost to the Government’s Department of Communications two weeks ago but did not get a response.
Mr Furbert insisted that the Government had backed “Buy Bermuda”.
He said: “We encourage that – but times have changed.
“I have a very strong liking and concern for retail and I’ve had it for many years. I’ve met with them over and over again.”
Mr Furbert asked: “How do we improve some of their services?
“Times have changed. My wife – I like to encourage her to shop more downtown, but she says ‘Wayne, if I go downtown and buy a dress, everybody looks like me’.
“I’ve got the same dress on as everybody else – or I can’t find my size’.”
Mr Furbert said: “These are some of the challenges that we do have and so we are only providing what other services are providing.”
He added later: “If you speak to the retail industry, they will tell you that Wayne Furbert has been supporting them.”
Mr Furbert was reminded that he had just criticised the island’s retail sector.
He said: “I criticised them? In which way?
“You ask the average female … if you and I buy shirts, that’s fine, but most females don’t want to be wearing the same thing. It’s true.
Mr Furbert added: “That’s just the normal buying habits of most females.”
He said he bought a lot of electrical equipment from overseas.
But he added: “I buy all my clothes … English Sports Shop, English Sports Shop, English Sports Shop.”
Mr Furbert said that purchases from overseas declared to customs had risen to $25 million in recent times.
He added: “Normally it’s $12 million to $14 million. Every Bermudian is doing it and what we’re trying to do is provide a service that’s going to be cheaper.”