Grocer determined to keep prices down
When Fabio Iannone first launched the English Market in the Washington Mall his model was a grocery store “more on the high end”.
But things did not work out exactly as expected. When he opened in July 2021, sales were slow to pick up.
“A lot of people said I was crazy for opening in a pandemic,” Mr Iannone said. “I felt discouraged.”
He quickly realised that the English Market was just not competitive enough.
“We had the same things that all the other grocery stores had in Bermuda,” he said.
If he was going to survive, he needed to offer something different.
“That wasn’t easy,” he said. “A lot of the typical English brands like Waitrose were already being sold by other grocery stores.”
He hunted the internet for British brands that were not only less common in Bermuda, but also less expensive.
“It was not easy,” he said. “I spent months looking for different brands. Then, once I found them, I had to figure out a way to get them here.”
He now stocks British brands such as Whole Foods UK and Great Value.
“People are really struggling with grocery store prices right now,” Mr Iannone said.
During the first year of the pandemic grocery prices rose an average of 2.9 per cent in Bermuda. In June 2021, local grocery store owners attributed price hikes in their stores to the pandemic, a change in political leadership in the United States and to the Suez Canal blockage, among other things.
But the changes at the English Market helped to turn the situation around for Mr Iannone.
“People used to come in, grab one or two items and leave,” he said. “Just in the last month, we have seen a difference with that. Now, people are coming in and doing a whole week’s shop.”
Mr Iannone is convinced the draw is the cheaper prices.
“I am currently selling 200 English products,” he said. “I sell English beers, cheeses, cereals and more. And I’m selling them for 50 cents to a dollar cheaper than other local grocery stores. You can save $100 for a week’s worth of groceries here, compared to other stores. Over time, that adds up. You could eventually buy a ticket to England on what you save.”
Some businesses in Hamilton have complained that sales are down because many Hamilton office workers are still working remotely. That’s not so much of an issue for Mr Iannone.
“The grocery store is not a place you go to window shop,” he said. “You come because you need to buy stuff.”
He was previously a partner at the Beluga Bar, also in the Washington Mall. He decided to sell his shares and open a grocery store when he saw an open space on the lower level, previously occupied by a food court.
After a lifetime in the restaurant industry, the transition to the grocery business meant a steep learning curve for Mr Iannone.
“I have learnt a lot,” he said.
And he said there is more to come. Things are going so well that he plans to bring in another line of English products soon.
His goal is to continue offering products at a cheaper price than other stores on the island.
“Everything that comes to Bermuda doesn’t have to be so expensive,” he said.
For more information see theenglishmarket.com, call 249-3000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org