Sri Lanka’s best known icon in the doldrums
By Quintus Perera
More than a year ago one of the largest go-downs of the CWE, converted
into a major retail outlet at Welisara, was bustling with activity
with hundreds of shoppers. Today, it’s like a haunted area
with no buyers and rows of empty shelves.
The Sunday Times FT visited the Sathosa model supermarket at Welisara
last week, around 72 workers were present, some reading books others
chatting while another group played cards but all wondered about
of them said they were disillusioned about their future, due to
the current political uncertainty in the country. Others said the
government was partly to blame for the debacle at Sathosa.
paid on the 25th of every month, these workers have not received
their June salary as yet. Across Sathosa supermarkets there exists
a total of 3,150 workers now idling as private sector managers pulled
out from the organization last month. Meanwhile the government said
last week that part of their salaries would be paid as workers demonstrated
in Colombo over the payment issue.
Welisara, there are huge refrigerators, cooling boxes used to display
vegetable, fruit and meats and giant air-conditioned plants worth
more than Rs. 100 million, now carelessly dumped in the backyard
of the outlet. The workers said that these refrigerators and air-conditioners
were removed from other large defunct CWE super markets to avoid
paying rents if they were still stationed in those outlets.
workers said that from the beginning of this outlet, daily sales
were in the range of Rs 1.5 million while on weekends this amount
topped the Rs 2 million mark.
Welisara outlet has been operating under different conditions from
other outlets with the independence to make purchases and payments
in an atmosphere conducive to run the outlet successfully. At the
time of privatisation the funds at its bank account showed a balance
of around Rs 17 million, these workers pointed out.
to a large capital being tied down in various luxury items that
were not moving, these funds have been siphoned to make further
purchases and when there was a scarcity of essential items no buyers
were visiting and within four months after privatisation the sales
the privatization all purchases and payments made through the Welisara
outlet was stopped while everything was centrally operated from
the head office. Workers said that the oversupply of luxury goods
compared to essential items was one of the causes for the downfall
of the CWE outlets.
had repeatedly pointed out these daring shortcomings to the management
but their advice was ignored. Some Rs. 8 million worth of perfumes
alone have been returned to the suppliers and yet another Rs 8.5
million worth of perfumes are in the stores. Likewise they said
that there are various other luxury items that are now stocked in
the stores.Sales have slumped to just Rs. 400 to 500 per day from
what was once the best CWE outlet in the country.
workers said that when the administration of the outlet was led
by the CWE head office, the security was the CWE itself and they
were held responsible for checking the customer items, any shortages
were charged from them. After privatisation the existing CWE security
was done away with and in place the responsibility was handed over
to a private security firm sans the responsibility of checking the
goods of customers.
this huge retail sales outlet is left alone with no manager, no
security guards with electricity, water and telephone lines cut
off owing to non-payment of bills.