The magic of lower prices at Fresh
Three months ago Sharrieff Wales opened Fresh Ltd at 28 Queen Street, selling everything from knives and body soap to floor cleaning products and plates, all for between $2 and $6.
The store’s motto is ‘Fresh where low prices are the law…’.
Mr Wales has been met with a certain amount of wonder and disbelief. “It’s magic,” Mr Wales jokes when people ask how he does it.
His approach is to find the right small, third-party vendors. “You can find some amazing deals,” he said.
Some of his body washes sell for $9 less than the same product in a larger, more established local store.
“We have a product called Triple Butter Body Wash,” he said. “We actually sell it cheaper in this store than in Walmart, and it is a Walmart brand.”
And yes, he is viable and making money.
“We are getting what we need to pay our rent, keep the lights on, pay our staff and still make a couple of dollars, so we are happy,” he said. “I don’t want to put what I would consider our trade secrets out there.”
Some customers have come to him and said: “I knew they were overcharging us all these years!”
But Mr Wales insists the other stores are not overcharging,
In fact, he runs three Champ’s Variety convenience stores that follow a more traditional business model and pricing system.
He keeps everything at its minimum markup rate.
“I am just trying to get Bermudians the break they so desperately need,” he said.
Some people have questioned why he sells his products at Fresh so cheaply, when he could sell them more expensively and still beat the prices of the larger stores.
“Why would anyone come to me, then?” he said. “Everyone has their place where they like to shop. Why would they make the drive? They would end up spending their savings in gas for their car.”
But he felt people would make the drive if the savings were worth it.
“The savings on some products are as much as $9,” he said. “While for other products the savings is 50 cents or 75 cents. It is what it is.”
His bestselling products are lotions, and soaps. He sells Dove body wash for $6, for example, compared to $12 or more, elsewhere.
But the business is not without its challenges. He has been battling brand-bias ever since opening.
“We have a Canadian product called Vim,” he said. “I recently just spent an emergency out in Canada for five weeks, and Vim was everywhere. Vim makes products like bathroom cleaners and dish washing liquid. It works great.”
But he has found a decided lack of interest in Vim in Bermuda.
“It has been sitting on the shelf,” he said. “It is considerably cheaper than these other name-brand products, but because few people here know the brand, no one is buying it. We probably will not bring it in again.”
He insists he is not in the business of teaching people about brands. He does not have the time for that. He has also had some challenges getting shipments to Bermuda through the United States.
He has had a container stuck in Canada for five weeks, while some of the smaller, no-name brands he is bringing in seek approval from the Food & Drug Administration.
“A lot of the bigger brands already have approval from the FDA, but some of the smaller, no-name brands do not have it.”
Mr Wales has done some marketing on social media to promote Fresh, but is relying heavily on word of mouth to raise awareness.
“I know there are still a lot of people out there who don’t know about us,” he said. “But once word gets out, the business will slowly grow. I never did any marketing for Champs.”
He is currently running between all four businesses, but hopes that will taper off as Fresh becomes better established.
“In my head, an entrepreneur starts something, and makes it so that he does not have to be there,” Mr Wales said. “An entrepreneur hires the right people to run the business and then moves on to the next thing. I am learning that process.”