Retailers lament low patronage as recession bites

It is not the best of times for retailers in Nigeria as there appears to be no end in sight to the lingering harsh business conditions they are face with as a result of the weakness of the naira against the dollar which has greatly inflated the prices of all imported items leading to a record low in sales.
The current economic slowdown being experienced in Nigeria has also forced a good number of mall operators to retrench some of their staff while those who could not stand
the heat have closed their shops permanently.
BusinessDay recent survey reveals that 90 percent of the consumers in the shopping mall are either window-shopping or heading to the cinema ‘‘When you see a huge
crowd around the mall, it’s easy to think that we are recording more sales but that is not the case. Most of these people hardly come inside our stores. If they are not going to see a movie, they are taking pictures.
We are making little or no sales,’’ a manager at an accessories store at Ikeja shopping mall told BusinessDay. Few mall operators who spoke with BusinessDay expressed fears  over the prolonged low sales which they say is seriously hurting their businesses.
“Our sales have drastically reduced, the harsh economy is really telling on us. This year has been so horrible for us, some days we don’t even sell
an item, it’s that bad. The month is usually when we hit our highest sales in the year but this time, we did not even reach a quarter of our target.
“I can count how many items I have sold since I moved into this mall, business is not good at all. Most people are not thinking much about fashion, although we get few customers once in a while but it’s been tough. You can see how empty the entire mall is but we hope business will improve with time”, Gloria Uwaka, Manager at Steps Exclusive told BusinessDay.
While retailers continue to wait for business to return to usual, experts say this will be an appropriate time for them to begin to source their materials locally, to enable them offer the right prices for their products as way of surviving the turbulent times.
‘‘Source for local raw materials within Nigeria instead of importing because you don’t have access to foreign exchange or the income you are generating cannot provide FX for you.

‘‘Consumers have become more conscious, more concerned and conservative because of the state of the economy and they are likely going to proactively search for savings.  They will remain brand loyal only if the price is right,” said Temitope Oshikoya, CEO/ Chief Economic Strategist, Nextnomics. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman,
Board of Directors in First Bank of Nigeria said retailers need to develop the right mind-set if they desire to survive the present economic challenge.
“The reality right now is that the buying power of every consumer has depreciated. Most people do not have as much disposable income available. In the market where people are
losing jobs, were inflation has risen in a high double digits, retailers have to find how they can reach their consumers who has no capacity to absorb the increase cost in their  business by finding the alternative to their product within the same category before their competitor beats them to it,” Awosika said.



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