OK Zimbabwe Limited yesterday officially opened its first-ever Bon Marché store in the entire Matabeleland region at Parklands in Bulawayo amid pomp and ceremony, a development analysts say augurs well with efforts aimed at resuscitating the comatose local economy.
Thousands of early Christmas and New Year merry shoppers thronged the new Bon Marché shop situated at Megawatt shopping mall, with scores grabbing opening specials on a wet day, taking advantage of promotions run by OK Zimbabwe’s latest addition to the retail sector in the city.
The Parklands Bon Marché, housed in premises formerly occupied by Bonsa SPAR, becomes the eighth branch opened by OK Zimbabwe Limited countrywide.
In a statement yesterday announcing commencement of business in Bulawayo, OK Zimbabwe Limited was, however, quick to advise the public that the retail giant was not taking over the operations of Bonsa SPAR.
“OK Zimbabwe Limited and its Bon Marché franchise are distinct and separate from the SPAR Franchise. The management of Bonsa SPAR has made a separate communication to its stakeholders on the exit of their Bonsa SPAR from Megawatt shopping centre, Parklands, with effect from December 1,” part of the statement signed by company secretary H Nharingo read.
Seven Bon Marché branches are exclusively located in Harare.
But as part of its grand entrance in Bulawayo, Bon Marché shoppers stand a chance to win life-changing prizes in the current on-going “Liv’ It Up Fiesta”.
For spending $10 or more, a shopper stands to win a holiday of a lifetime for a family of four in Mauritius, among other prizes. There are also seven Chevy Sparks to be won.
As news of Bon Marché’s opening in the City of Kings spread yesterday, the Bulawayo business community roundly applauded OK Zimbabwe Limited, pointing out that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company shrugged off the generally depressed economy and the city’s perennial water woes to firmly establish a new branch.
“It’s an encouraging development. We have always known Bon Marché to be a Harare store which is one of the best and offering good promotions. We have asked ourselves as business; why limit itself to Harare?” Lucky Mlilo, the chief executive officer of the Association for Business in Zimbabwe said.
“Bon Marché brings competition to the retail sector in Bulawayo. It is good for the city, it is good for the consumers who are assured of variety and competitive prices,” he said.
George Mukamba, the administrator of Bulawayo Business Arise, said Bon Marché’s entry was likely to spur other potential investors to see that Bulawayo and its hinterlands were open for business despite a bleak outlook posed by the stagnant national economy.
“Bon Marché is a good brand. It should encourage more investors to come to Bulawayo and the rest of Matabeleland. It not only provides employment for locals, but opportunities for producers. Ultimately, the latest development calls for the urgent revival of the agro industry in this part of the world which should feed the retail store. We want to see local farmers and other producers of vegetables, for instance, feeding the retail store so that their products are found on the shelves,” Mukamba said.
The entry of Bon Marché comes in the backcloth of the take-over of several SPAR franchises in the city by Botswana’s retail giant Choppies.