Roadtown Wholesale Trading – RiteWay Food Markets
Issue Fall 14
Overseeing wholesale and retail operations in an island environment can be a daunting task. But for Roadtown Wholesale Trading and RiteWay Food Markets, the organization has decades of experience in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). This experience allows the company to succeed no matter what the challenges.
Roadtown Wholesale Trading and its retail division RiteWay Food Markets are the largest wholesale distributor and retailer of food and beverages in the BVI. The company was founded as Roadtown Wholesale in April 1961 and grew from humble beginnings in a small rented store in Road Town, Tortola, the capital of BVI.
Over the years, the organization extended service to more of BVI’s islands, built warehouses, and opened six supermarkets. The RiteWay Food Markets chain has been in operation since 1977. The company has exclusive distribution rights for many brands, including Kraft, General Foods, M&M Mars, Kellogg’s, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Grey Goose, Finlandia, Jack Daniels, Mount Gay Rum and Gallo Wines.
“We are a full-scale supermarket business with wholesale and retail operations,” Managing Director Simon Potter says.
Today, the organization includes retail stores along with its cash-and-carry and wholesale divisions. It also provides online provision-ordering services for yachts and villas.
“We do a lot of provisioning for people on boats, as this is the yachting capital of the world,” Potter says. “They can go on our website, put in their order and pay online. We can then deliver their order.”
In 2010, RiteWay opened its state-of-the-art flagship store in Pasea. The 21,000-square-foot grocery includes an in-store bakery and deli, imported wines and cheeses, fresh cut meats, poultry and fish, a floral shop and a variety of groceries, spirits, tobacco and household goods.
“Altogether, we have six retail stores, two cash-and-carry locations and one major wholesale distribution center,” Potter says.
Since 2010, the company has invested in modernization efforts at most of its facilities. “We wanted to make our stores look better and did things such as redesigning produce sections and installing better cases,” Potter says.
After more than 50 years in operation, the Roadtown-RiteWay organization understands the challenges it faces every day. Working in an island environment, it faces obstacles due to shipping and product availability.
“We order many products from England and the United States., and lead-times can be long,” Potter says. “We try to have some standing orders in place for items we need regularly, having multiple orders in the pipeline to make sure we don’t get hurt by runs on items.”
The company also understands that it must get to know its customers. It conducts regular customer surveys, and it actively works to get in front of the tourist population.
“We do bigger sales in the strong tourist months, and we work closely with the hotel and yacht communities,” Potter says. “We do a lot of promotions and activities, and we get involved in the community as much as possible.”
Other areas of focus for the company include staff and infrastructure development. Potter says the company has helped a number of employees go to college to earn degrees. The company has also invested in a strong IT system and website because of the volume of business it does with online shopping. “We are in the process of changing our retail point-of-sale software, which will be done in phases until we reach all of our stores,” Potter says.
The company has nearly 500 employees and is the largest single employer in the BVI. It can reach about 90 percent of the BVI’s population through its locations and service offerings.
“We sell a little product in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we’re looking to do more there,” Potter says. “We import product from many countries around the world, and we are always looking for the best prices.”
The Roadtown-Riteway organization aims to continue to grow its leadership position as the top wholesaler and retailer of food, beverages and related goods in the region. It will strive to be a progressive BVI company that makes use of innovative strategies for success.
“Product availability will continue to be a challenge,” Potter says. “We will look to bring in more products from other geographic locations. As the largest supplier of food and household items in the BVI, we have to import almost everything. But we will also look to buy local products wherever we can.”