Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
RETAILERS have pleaded with Government to protect them from unfair competition posed by influx of inferior imported products, address problems faced by street vendors and deal with serious challenges they pose for formal business.

The retailers made the plea when highlighting the cocktail of problems they want Government and its regulatory arms to address to save their businesses from potential collapse.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu told a media briefing in Harare yesterday that their members wanted authorities to protect them from imported sub-standard products that have flooded the market.

The inferior quality imported products are said to be finding their way on to the local market without any restraint yet they are competing with higher priced good quality local products sold by formerly established retailers.

Mr Mutashu also said they were not asking Government to ban vending, the source of livelihood for multitudes of families finding sustenance from the trade in a largely informalised economy, but to come up with proper vending sites for the vendors.

“As the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers we acknowledge the vendors, we acknowledge their operations; what we are simply calling for is to ensure that we provide the necessary lobbying for Government and councils to provide alternative space for the vendors,” he said.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers was formed in 2009 and was registered in 2013. It draws its membership, in excess of 40, from formal and informal sectors. Its goal is to lobby Government on policy issues.

The economy has over last decade and half gone through a structural shift that saw a number of formal businesses collapse giving rise to informal activities including vending activities.

And in a number of instances the sale of imported products entails selling goods that are of inferior quality and low price, pushing a good number of local products on the fringe.

It is against this background that the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers will next month hold a one-day conference to discuss the myriad of challenges they face and the event will be attended by policy makers and other stakeholders.

Mr Mutashu said the vendors that were selling from undesignated sites also faced a number of problems including lack of proper storage, exposure to sun, rain, lack of running water, and ablution facilities among other issues.

“The vendors must be allowed to continue with their vending activities, but from designated sites, we are now challenging the responsible authorities to provide such facilities.

“Established business, what they require is that vendors be removed from pavements because some of the vendors are actually directly impeding proper business; customers cannot walk freely in and out of established retailers,” he said.

Mr Mutashu said in Zambia authorities had resolved to build proper vending sites to curb the problem of vendors selling from any site including spaces meant for formal retailers.

He said next month’s one day conference will also discuss issues such as high cost of rentals, high cost of finding, which have seen a number of retailers being evicted from outlets while others got embroiled in a vicious cycle of debt.

Mr Mutasha also said in line with call from Buy Zimbabwe Campaign, they were looking to support local producers by prioritising locally made products to ensure that jobs are not lost and raise capacity to curtail import bill.