New Western Union MoBay franchise to focus on service

Published: Friday | March 6, 2009

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

Michelle Eason, director of the new Western Union on Barnett Street in Montego Bay. - Photos by Janet Silvera

Two young Montego Bay entrepreneurs, Junior Barnes and Michelle Eason, say they have invested US$500,000 (J$44 million) in what they are dubbing the city's first Western Union superstore, to provide value-added money transfer and bill payment services in western Jamaica, with sharp focus on meeting customers' changing needs.

Barnes and Eason are franchisees of GraceKennedy Remittance Services, which operates the Western Union money transfer business in most English-speaking Caribbean countries, as well as Haiti.

The store, located on Barnett Street, in the city's busy commercial hub, and officially opened on Monday, will provide money transfer and bill payments services, under GraceKennedy's Bill Express brand.

Doing business differently

What makes their operation different, Barnes and Eason said at a launch event this week, is how they will do business, starting with their opening and closing times.

In a city notorious for the early evening closure of commercial offices, Barnes and Eason said their shop will do business from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 10 to 5 on Sundays, when most other money service outlets are closed.

"We are revolutionising remittance services in Jamaica, which do not go beyond 7 p.m.," Barnes said.

Moreover, customers with large transactions can get security escort provided by the store, he noted.

"Anyone that comes here with a transaction that is higher than US$7,000 and requests escort, we will provide that service."

A courtesy bus transport service will be provided to customers after 7 p.m.

It is expected that such add-ons will be popular with Montego Bay residents and visitors. Montego Bay, with its many hotels and cruise ship pier, is Jamaica's leading resort town.

Additionally, Barnes and Eason said their operation will provide to their Bill Express customers, a free bill pick-up and delivery service within two miles of the store.

Mayor welcomes model

Montego Bay's mayor, Charles Sinclair, has welcomed the new business model.

"Both entrepreneurs are changing business to fit the current culture," he said. "Montego Bay does not go to sleep at 6 p.m. That was 20 years ago. We are now in need of 24-hour businesses."

Barnes and Eason are already partners in several ventures, including a pharmaceuticals distribution firm and a water-bottling facility.

Barnes said the bulk of the initial capital investment has gone into an ultra-modern office décor that boasts a waiting lounge with flat-screen televisions and high-tech security features.

"GraceKennedy has equipped us with the latest in technology, touch-screen monitors and scanning equipment," he told the Financial Gleaner. "It's a Western Union like no other."

Junior 'Flette' Barnes at his new Western Union store on Barnett Street in Montego Bay, St James.