As it appeared in the Daily Nation on Dec 29th 2015
Many retailers are smiling all the way to the bank like they often do same time every year. Retailers such as supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, bookstores, general shops, petrol stations and many others are having their best season. This is because many Kenyans often go on some sort of shopping frenzy during this time of the year. For many, it is time to celebrate with family, friends, colleagues, customers, partners and the like and this celebration involves some transaction. The process of transacting can either be a delight or a pain to the customer.
Most of the delight and the pain of the shopping experience is evident. The delight adds to the joyous moments of the celebrations whether Christmas, New Year or back to school. No doubt that all the transactions done during these celebrations leave a dent in many pockets. This is possibly the greatest woe of the shopping frenzy. Salaries check-in unusually early in December. Most employers are quite considerate and want their staff to have no excuse. The only excuse that staff often make come January is that January is the longest month of the year. The early December pay may explain why I had to wait for over an hour to transact at a bank on 24th December. Nevertheless, why were there only two tellers and three empty cubicles on such a peak day?
Queues are certainly another woe of the shopping frenzy. Not only do we witness cars queuing at the entrance of the malls but also on the roads exiting the city. We also witness queues at the supermarkets, airports, banks, restaurants and even on the streets. I suspect that the queues at the upcountry public transport stations have not grown shorter despite the significant increase in number of private vehicles on our roads. Some queues are uncalled for while others need to be better managed. Back to my bank experience, there was especially something not right with how my fellow Nyerians were queuing at the Equity bank. I did not gather enough courage to ask them to keep at arm’s length. I booked my space and watched from a distance for a while. I noticed the alarming rate at which customers were jumping the queue and I got closer to keep off the queue jumpers as I waited for my turn. Could these be the same people that keep us waiting for hours on the roads because they jump the queue and block oncoming traffic thus causing traffic gridlocks? We need to get better in queue management.
Stock outs is another woe of the shopping frenzy. As a result of stock outs, customers are forced to hop from shop to shop. I must recommend Naivas-Nyeri for the exceptional stocking and off course for introducing escalators to Nyerians. I did not need to hop from shop to shop. In fact I was surprised they had Black Pepper in stock because my usual Nakumatt-Junction did not have it in stock on several occasions. The last time I saw that kind of stocking was at Walmart just before thanksgiving and black Friday. If customers will come to shop, eat or stay we better prepare in advance to avoid stock-outs.
With prior planning, smart companies can ensure that their customers’ shopping experience is painless. This is a golden opportunity to win many first time customers. Let us welcome the New Year with better planning. Wishing you all a spectacular 2016!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy