CUBA STANDARD — Cuban state company Cimex has quietly opened the first wholesale store for private businesses.
Cuba’s b&b, restaurant, hair salon, taxi, car repair shop, and clothing store owners have been clamoring for access to bulk supplies at prices that are more affordable than in regular hard-currency retail stores.
In an interview with a reporter of official website Cubadebate, the store manager said Zona+ (pronounced “Zona Mas”) in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana is a “specialized store dedicated to the cuentapropista segment of the market,” offering food and personal hygiene products.
Customers interviewed by Cubadebate lauded the selection, amount of goods, prices, and service, saying they had learned about the store by word of mouth.
According to a Reuters report, Zona+ is better stocked than the usual hard-currency retail stores, with produce stacked to the ceiling like in a warehouse. But only a handful of goods are available in large quantities, at 20% discount.
Shop employees told Reuters that this was an experiment, with plans for Zona+ to eventually sell everything in bulk at 10-20% discounts, depending on the amount purchased.
The government’s investment portfolio — the top-priority wish list to foreign investors — includes no wholesale food stores. However, it does include the opportunity to establish a $11.8 million wholesale construction supply joint venture with three outlets throughout the island, a $5.2 million textile product wholesale joint venture with a store in suburban Havana, and a $17.1 million wholesale autoparts joint venture, also with an outlet near Havana.
In April, officials announced that some coops would be able to buy supplies directly from government producers and wholesale outlets. But the recent 7th Party Congress eliminated private wholesale agricultural markets after a one-year pilot project phase, amid concern about rising prices.