Zimbabweans staying home for christmas shopping

FRANCISTOWN – Botswana's retail supermarkets' sales have taken a battering compared to last year as Zimbabwean shoppers stay home with most goods now available in shops since the unity government.

Supermarkets such as Spar, Shoprite and Choppies say that things have normalised because now Zimbabweans come at normal rates as compared to last year when they emptied the shops. It is also a sign that the government of national unity signed by rivals president Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement or Democratic Change (MDC) is working as shops in Zimbabwe are well stocked.

Last year the shops in Francistown were having to struggle to meet demand because Zimbabwean shoppers were buying everything in bulk and leaving nothing for locals who bought in smaller quantities.

Though the traders say that the flooding of Zimbabweans was good for businesses they feel that the situation is now better because they are able to measure their performances and at the same time satisfy their Batswana customers.

Francistown Shoprite store manager, Boemo Barakanye, says that things are definitely not the same as they were last year.

"It is not the same because even companies that are supplying here have opened businesses in Zimbabwe," he said.

He further said that around this time last year they had a shortage of essentials like mealie meal, cooking oil and salt. He explained that now they are seeing more of Batswana customers as Zimbabweans only come in small numbers.

"To be precise I had only two Zimbabwean customers recently," he added.

Barakanye said that since the drop in Zimbabwean buyers the shop has lost about 25 percent of its business. However, they are concentrating on serving Batswana this festive season.

" It does not change the fact that we know who our customers are," he added.

Store Manager for Nswazwi Spar Supermarket Mohutsiwa Dikgakololo, agrees that it has definitely gone quiet in most supermarkets this time around as compared to last year.

"It is all quiet around town compared to the same time last year," he observes.

Dikgakololo says that they still have their Zimbabwean customers who have always shopped with them but as for those who were flooding the place during last year have since disappeared.

He went on to say that it is not a bad thing that the Zimbabwean have gone back to Zimbabwe.

"It is a good thing because our market is Batswana and we need to realise that. It is not so bad at all it is just that at that time people came in big numbers but we knew that it would slow down," he said.

He adds that they are concentrating on delivering to their Batswana customers who are their prime target.

He went to say that during the day it would seem like the shops are quite but it is only because most Batswana would be at work so their rush hours are after 5pm when people return from work.

At Choppies Supermarket, store manager, Danmore Khoza, says that Batswana are now shopping without the hassle caused by Zimbabweans.

"By this time last year it was not easy for people who wanted to buy in small quantities to come here and buy because it was crowded and the queues were almost unbearable," he says.

He further says that keeping stock on the counter was a problem because Zimbabweans bought in bulk.

Khoza says that it is a positive thing because now they are able to help Batswana shoppers buy any quantities that they want.

"Last year they could not get mealie meal, cooking oil, and rice because besides the stocks being depleted by Zimbabweans prices were also rocketing."

Khoza, who took Mmegi on a tour of the shop, pointed to counters that had nothing last year but are now full.

"It is relaxed now and the only people who are shopping in bulk are those who must have been saving for the rainy day," he said.

There were several Batswana women who were buying stuff in bulk for their social clubs.
Khoza says that things have normalised because even though Zimbabweans were bringing a lot of business they were also frustrating Batswana customers.

Though supermarkets say that Zimbabweans are not their prominent customers, Chinese electronic traders still get more business from them.

Xung Yin, who owns Neo Shop, says that they also do not see as mush business as they did last year or even at the beginning of this year but Zimbabweans are still their main buyers.

"They still come and buy a lot of goods but not like before," he said.

He says that now a lot of their customers are from Zambia.

Bai Nianzu, who also owns a Chinese shop, says that they sell to everyone but a lot of business they do is with Zimbabweans and Zambians because they buy a lot of stuff.

"Batswana buy what they need but Zimbabweans and Zambians buy a lot of television sets and DVD players because they are taking them home to sell," she said.

But love them or hate them Zimbabweans are still a part of the Francistown economy. (MmegOnline)