CUSTOMERS in Bulawayo have applauded the entrance of more players to the retail sector which had been dominated by a few huge supermarkets, expressing hopes for marked improvement across players.
Since entering the Bulawayo market in October last year, Choppies supermarket has opened 14 stores around the city while Pick n Pay rebranded from TM Hyper and opened its doors to the public last Thursday.
Pick n Pay, which holds a 49% interest in TM Supermarket, last year invested $25 million to refurbish 50 outlets across the country while Choppies is a Botswana multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer.
Media reports say with revenues declining in the face of competition from other retailers, Meikles has embarked on an aggressive drive to grow its retail branch network, diversifying its business to boost revenues.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) manager for Matabeleland, Comfort Muchekeza, said competition introduced into the retail sector by new players would benefit consumers especially in the long run since it had a direct impact on pricing and merchandising.
“The CCZ would be delighted if this trend could see industries opening because when we produce locally, we can then monitor prices from an informed perspective,” he said.
“There is also a marked improvement in the presentation and shelving at the new shops where you can take Pick n Pay as compared to TM Hyper for example, the improvement is visible as soon as you enter the complex.
“If the new outlets could maintain the standards they have set and complement them with affordable prices, competitors will have to tighten their belts and work hard to keep up,” he added.
A random survey among customers who were shopping at Pick n Pay hypermarket and Choppies Bulawayo Centre on Tuesday revealed their optimism that the retail giants’ entry into Bulawayo would benefit them in terms of service and value for money.
One customer, Noreen Neta, said she could see an attitude change in the way general staff at Pick n Pay dealt with customers after its entrance.
“I think the fact that these guys are coming in to try and wrestle market share from traditional supermarkets increases their need to satisfy each and every customer,” Neta said.
“We had now been used to ill-treatment and an indifferent attitude from supermarket staff which I think was inherited from the hyper-inflationary period when we used to beg for products even if we had enough money to buy,” she added.
Another customer at the hypermarket, Robert Chimbadzwa, praised the product quality indicating that there were implied international standards with Pick n Pay which were buttressed by the refurbishment which livened up the shop.
“This is true for not only Pick n Pay but even when OK (Jason Moyo) refurbished we felt better assured of their products and I wish these shops could always strive to keep up with international standards,” he explained.
While shopping at Choppies Bulawayo Centre, Danai Kudakwashe, said the retail chain had removed his perception that supermarkets were always after mega profits with no regard for customers.
“I have been going round looking for groceries and noticed that there is now an effort to provide variety at commensurate prices but in the past, high quality products were not shelves, but the prices for substandard goods could buy premium wares,” he said.
Patricia Kasaru who was shopping for baby products said she had overstated her budget in line with what she spent for her first baby five years ago.
“It has not been easy to get all these products at affordable prices from supermarkets for a very long time but today I’m impressed. I think competition is working to our advantage as customers,” she added.
Despite encouraging positive implications noted by consumers, Muchekeza warned them from getting overexcited and thus overspending in the new shops.
“When these new stores open they usually do so with huge promotions and people end up spending what they had not budgeted for,” Muchekeza said.
“In the past, many have been robbed by technology promotions and clearance sales, so we urge consumers not to get carried away.”