As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 3rd 2016
Growing up we had to travel quite a distance to purchase every day requirements. Today, at every corner of the street whether in the urban areas or the rural areas is a kiosk from which to buy basic requirements. In addition, convenience stores and large retail stores have mushroomed in the last decade making shopping easier than ever before. If you walk around the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) and even many of our other towns you will notice retail shops that sell similar items located right next to each other. You may also have noticed that malls are today a stone throw away from each other.
Customer have a vast variety of retail shops to choose from. The proximity of similar retail shops means that customers can easily compare prices, quality and variety before making a purchase. Additionally, customers can walk away from retail stores that do not meet their needs and find a better option right next door. As customers, this means we have more power when making our purchase decision. The main question though is, are retailers really concerned about holding on to their customers or is their focus too much on attracting new customers or outdoing the competitors next door?
A few weeks ago I was walking along Moiavenue and Tom Mboya street. I noticed two main things, one was the many shops next to each other selling phones and phone accessories and the unique shoes stores that were selling lots of multi-coloured flat shoes with a voice over announcing the price and inviting customers. Anyone who shops along these streets has so much to choose from. Similarly, other streets are known for different retail shops for example Biashara street has a variety of baby stuff while Luthuli avenue is popular with electronic. Even outside the Nairobi CBD the retail sector is vibrant. Those who live along Ngong Road between Muchai drive and Dagoretti corner for example have a number of supermarkets to choose from with all the major ones namely Tuskys, Nakumatt, UchumiNaivas and Chandarana in the vicinity. Some of these stores have multiple stores within a radius of less than 5 kilometres. There has been astronomical growth in this sector over the last decade leaving customers spoilt for choice.
With the retail sector making major strides in growth the focus on what the target customer really needs must remain at the centre of this growth. Retail store that focus on the customer experience from end to end will certainly become more attractive. For instance, with more modern malls diverting traffic from the older malls, the look and feel is becoming a point of differentiation and so is parking fees with some malls offering first two hours free parking or free parking on weekdays. Comparing Kenya with more mature markets, the future of the retail sector is bright. More speciality stores are likely to spring up with major stores working towards repositioning themselves within their chosen market space. The phrase “thank you for choosing to shop with us today” will become more important than ever before because customers will have a vast variety to choose from.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on email@example.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy