Remembering Mother’s Day At Devon House: Why Some Businesses Are Slow To Or Never Respond

There are NOT many products, businesses, or places that people will line up for hoooours to buy or use. Not many in Jamaica and not many in the world. However there are some that are different. No matter which day of the week or time of year – their lines are long and customers just keep coming back. Meet Devon House.

Enticing waffle cone by megan

Enticing waffle cone by megan

In Jamaica, there is a place that sells its original Jamaican flavoured ice cream at a reasonable price and has been a hit with both locals and tourists. The flavours are refreshing, the service is OK (except for that sometimes annnnnoying security guard on the inside), and the ice cream shops are located in a nice family like atmosphere – making it a fun stop for families, lovebirds or anyone just wishing to hang out. In fact, Devon House was recently named the number 1 place to eat ice cream in the Caribbean and number 4 in the world! If you come to Jamaica you should definitely stop by there.

Devon House Ice Cream is sold at the historic Devon House location and a few other places across the island, but the best place to get the original experience is to definitely go to… that’s right –  Devon House. Once you visit you will see exactly what I mean.

How Ice Cream Is Sold

Ice cream is sold in two locations on the property, one inside what is designed as a quadrangle-like courtyard, while there is another stall on the outside. Both locations are almost never enough to deal with the demand that they face; And it gets even worse when demand peaks on weekends and public holidays.

This mother’s day was the worse I have ever seen it. The inside line was all the way out to the entrance! (I would say about 200 feet or 12 to 15 cars lined up back to back).

So why is it that despite this happening for years (the long lines on holidays and weekends), there seems to be no response from the vendor, the customers, or from even the competition? Here are some questions that people normally ask once visiting the location and seeing the packed crowds waiting patiently to buy ice cream.

  1. Why haven’t they expand the areas that they sell the ice cream?
  2. Can’t they see that on weekends the demand is greater – which means on the weekend they should do something differently?
  3. I wonder if they have ever thought about setting up extra serving stations on the outside to accommodate more customers on the weekends?

Why Don’t They respond

Which one should we do? Photo by

Which one should we do? Photo by hikingartist

We don’t know the full details. Maybe they are restricted on their use of additional space in terms of costs, property space; or maybe they are already making enough money and expanding would be too much hassle. However based on my observations this is why I think they haven’t responded as yet.

  1. Their product is unique – The original Jamaican flavours that they sell aren’t available any where else. In fact when relatives came from overseas and I brought them to Haagen Daazs, that’s when I realized why Devon House was unique. There was no rum and raisin or grapenut there.
  2. The location is unique – The huge open lawns, with space for family, picnics, ample parking, security, and its centrality – walking distance from Half-Way Tree (the Capital of Jamaica) makes it a hit with everyone, whether you drive or not.
  3. The experience is unique – Nothing beats sitting in the big open space, unhindered by time, or any other requirements. Just being free to walk and roam around acres of property is a big plus.
  4. The competition is weak – I don’t think vendors are allowed on the property. There is no major ice cream outlet that has the centrality, service, and quality products to meet customers’ demand. There is no major ice cream maker or seller making moves to set up anything of that magnitude for the masses, as Devon House has. (Yes I know that there are other players catering to niche markets.)
  5. The customers are loyal – Being around for years, building their brand and clientele Devon House is almost synonymous with ice cream. There is almost nowhere else to go. The product’s unique taste, the location, affordable price and service are memorable.

All of these are somewhat linked to competition. It could be that customers are loyal because there are limited choices, Devon House (DH) provides a better experience, and the competition has less quality and tasting (unique) products being sold in not-so-good locations. You can bet though that if the competition had the upper hand on one of these, DH would be in a serious pickle.

And yet some customers would love for there to be somewhere else. I am sure there are numerous persons who prefer not to buy their ice cream there due to

  • the large crowds
  • the time restrictions – DH closes promptly at 10pm
  • their product variety – e.g. nothing for lactose intolerant persons (just one example)
  • and other reasons (leave some reasons in the comments)

Why Don’t They Respond

So in summary, why don’t businesses like Devon House Ice Cream, and others that seem to be doing so well (and only need to take a few more simple steps to expand their business by leaps and bounds) respond? I think one of the major things is – C.O.M.P.E.T.I.T.I.O.N! Some businesses are just doing so well, that they don’t really need to respond. They are in a monopoly-like status which makes their business protected and their market share safe.

If there was a noticeable reduction in customers to their ice cream store on a Sunday, you bet some analysis would be done! However as it is right now, there are much more customers on the outside than they can find time to count.

Do you know other businesses like that? Businesses where demand is just outstripping supply by leaps and bounds? Well if you do, and you wonder why they haven’t innovated in quite a while, or found easier and quicker ways to deliver the product or service – while there may be a number of reasons,  lack of good competition may be their biggest problem. Think about it.

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