BULAWAYO’S first Food Lovers’ Market franchise outlet was established last year and set a lot of tongues wagging.
Image Matters with Nonto Masuku
Located at Bradfield shopping centre, Bulawayo, the new shop presented consumers with a somewhat different shopping experience. There was a notion, at the time, that this development marked the end of the road for the city’s hugely popular Paddy’s Fruit and Vegetable Shop and possibly other similar retailers.
Indeed some of Bulawayo’s fruit and vegetable shops have been greatly affected. Some have closed down this year as competition has intensified. However, of great interest is the manner in which the modest Paddy’s Fruit and Vegetable shop seems to have survived the onslaught.
I decided to do a snapshot survey and asked shoppers why they shop at either Paddy’s or Food Lovers’ Market. Some of the answers I obtained are articulated below; Paddy’s Fruit and Vegetable fans said they love to shop there because:
The fruit and vegetables are mostly home-grown and there is a perception that they are generally organic (note I said perception).
Fruit and vegetables are generally fresh. Produce is reasonably priced.
There is a friendly environment, particularly exhibited by the owner of the shop who always takes time to greet and chat to his customers. (Sometimes staff at the counters are not as friendly though).
Food Lovers’ Market fans said they love to shop there because:
The shop has a great ambience and is well laid out, and consequently enhances the shopping experience.
They like the well-stocked deli and the café overlooking the artificial lake. There is sufficient parking space. Staff members are generally friendly and well trained.
There is a wide variety of fruit and vegetables as well as selected groceries. It is a renowned South African franchise which makes shopping there that little bit more prestigious.
So what am I getting at with all this? Simply put: It is critical for a retail business to understand its target market and grasp what brings customers through the door. It is crucial for a business to customise its offering so that it meets the needs of its niche market. Folks at Food Lovers’ Market nailed it. They saw a gap in the market and came in to meet the needs of those who consider ambience as important.
Everything about the shop reinforces a particular image. Its location is relatively upmarket, the fittings are attractive and the design of the shop floor is well thought out. This shop is clearly playing to its strengths and is in no hurry to change anytime soon.
These observations provide us with a somewhat simplistic, and yet insightful demonstration of the dynamics of reputation and corporate image in today’s marketplace.