Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Fontana adding 108 jobs at new Waterloo location

Published:Wednesday | September 11, 2019 | 12:10 AM
Fontana CEO Kevin O’Brien Chang inside one of his stores.
Fontana CEO Kevin O’Brien Chang inside one of his stores.

The chairman and CEO of Fontana Limited says the training of more than 100 recruits is the final task remaining in the lead-up to the opening of the Waterloo Road location in Kingston later this month.

The escalators are ready, the aisles are stacked, and the branch underwent network connectivity last weekend, said Kevin O’Brien Chang. But the majority of the roughly 80 new staff still require training.

“We want to get it right with our staff,” he said. “About 80 per cent are new staff and we have to make sure they understand the Fontana culture and ensure the same family feel and customer service.”

Personalised service is important for Fontana, which wants to keep its small-town feel while growing its branch network to six. The company, which supplies pharmaceuticals and sells retail items, started just over 50 years ago as a family business in Mandeville.

Chang said he wants the new staff to absorb and internalise the culture of service. Jamaica is rarely lauded for its customer service, except in sectors that mainly interact with foreigners, such as BPO call centres and tourism.

“The reality is that we don’t want to open and the staff does not have the Fontana feel,” he said.

“We are not just buyers and sellers within a new shiny store, but rather all the staff have to be on board with the right attitude and feeling.”

Part of the motivation includes compensation which, he reasoned, remained competitive.

“Happy employees equal happy customers,” Chang added.

The company’s salary bill increased 10 per cent in the financial year ending June, from $405 million to $442 million, while its staff welfare expenses grew from $22 million to $28 million. The level of increase outpaced revenue growth, which rose 8.3 per cent from $3.4 billion to $3.7 billion.

The Waterloo Complex was developed by Half-Way Tree Development Limited, a company held by Eddie Azan. The complex will hold three tenants – Fontana, Wendy’s and Starbucks. The section occupied by Fontana will hold three separate businesses – confectionery retailer Candy Craze, eyewear company Imperial Optical and tech store TechnoKrat. The Fontana store will span some 35,000 square feet. It will be staffed by 115 workers – including 108 new recruits and seven transferees from existing stores.

Fontana Waterloo will grow the company’s workforce to 509.

For its financial year ending June, Fontana Limited paid out more than $200 million in bank debt, according to its cash-flow statement, leaving $12.1 million of loans on its books. The largest borrowing relates to a Bank of Nova Scotia bridge loan repayable in 12 months at 6.0 per cent interest as financing for the Waterloo store buildout, said its financial report. Fontana raised $235 million of equity capital in an initial public offering in January, which was ­utilised, in part, to pay off its debts.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com