The Return Of Super Stores In Nigeria
Attractive as they were, people who went for window-shopping ended up buying. The rich were the main targets of these retail outlets.
Dotun Abereagba, a 56 years old accountant, said the days of Leventis and Kingsway were spectacular because they were for the rich and middle class, and their children.
“ Kingsway started the Father Christmas for children. I used to take my children to Father Christmas at the Warri Kingsway, and by the time they were done, their pocket and hands would be filled with gifts.
It was a place the children were always looking forward to fun during Christmas season. For the adult, they provided a single window for shopping, because you can get all that was needed in one place. Local shops were not as many as they are today.
“ The first elevator I saw and used in my life was at Kingsway. That alone was an attraction. People were always willing to go there and make use of the elevator, and you will end up buying something. For me, it was a place I did shopping for frozen foods, because they already preserved them for those of us who had no fridge at home,” he said.
But, as Nigeria’s economy became challenged, the supermarkets could not keep up with the unfriendly business environment. Retail supermarkets began to disappear, because they could not cope. But, Domino stores have, in the face of hardship, been able to survive for over fifty years.
It was established by William Murray Bruce, who retired as a staff of UACN and was given one of the stores as entitlement. He took over the store and set up Domino in 1964.
Although, a contemporary of super stores like Leventis and Kingsway, Domino targeted middle class communities at inception. The business grew and became a distributor to UACN through out Lagos, before it opened branches in Port Harcourt. At the height of success, Domino had about 13 stores through out Nigeria.
But hard times for the super store came during the structural adjustment programme of late General Sanni Abacha regime; it could no longer bring in imported items.
While Kingsway liquidated, Leventis downsized and eventually closed all of its retail outlets. UACN, despite being a major supplier of items for retail businesses, also felt the impact and had to downsize. This affected Domino stores as it lost a huge clientele base.
The store shut down many of its branches, leased out the properties and was left with Two stores; the one on 282 Herbert Macaulay Street and 17A commercial Avenue, Yaba.
Things became more difficult and the stores were reduced to one because it became more commercially viable to lease out properties. About five years ago, the property on 282 Herbert Macaulay was leased out, while the store on Commercial Avenue was retained, although relocated.
With the liberalization of importation and the setting up of packaging industries that were previously non-existent, the management looked at the successes of ShopRite, and decided it was time to return.
The General Manager, Patrick Lee, who spoke with The Guardian, narrated the success story of the super store. He said Domino tried to carve out its own market by avoiding competition. “ Domino never tried to compete with the bigger stores as a strategy, we concerned ourselves with the middle class community, while the bigger stores aimed for the rich. The concentration was actually on growing the business, so we can have a fall back, in case tough times come.”
One thing that gave Domino store an edge over other super stores was its diversification strategy. Lee said the success of Domino could be attributed to its diversification, which was intensified during the late General Sanni Abacha’s regime.
Today, so many businesses were built on the foundation that Domino created; Ozone cinemas, E-Centers, and even the Silverbird Galleria for which Domino was a driving force.
According to Lee, the owner of the super store was able to combine faith and passion for the business, adding that this, coupled with his experience kept the business alive for this long.
Continuing, he said, “government needs to fix power because retail business works beyond nine to five and the profit margin of 25 per cent that it gets is low compared to other businesses that make as much as 50 to 75 per cent. Taxation without rebate is also another issue to be dealt with.”
Today, Nigeria has become a new destination for retailers with the emergence of superstores dotting major cities. Superstores are back in town, bigger and better than what they used to be. New shopping malls are also springing up.
The entry of ShopRite into Nigeria has marked the beginning of a new era for the retail sector. The Game also followed suit and a spirit of competition has ensued.
The presence of ShopRite in any mall automatically changes the outlook and prestige attached to the mall, because ShopRite is now a popular brand of retail stores in Lagos and big cities in the country. It is becoming a culture for the malls to be flooded with people at weekends, the days when most workers have time to shop, hence the overflow.
The amusing thing about ShopRite is not the way the items in the stores are arranged, but the queues for payment, which are sometimes too long.
The modern day superstores have specific features that attract consumers. The price tags on each product, proximity of having all items in one place, products being usually offered at low prices from reduced margins; Most times, they preserve their fresh products, make available promotional offers; With receipts, consumers can report or return damaged products, which is a rare occurrence in other shops.
Some consumers also believe that the latter day superstores are better than the former, while some consumers don’t see any difference in them.
Mrs Ogala, a customer at ShopRite Lekki said “ShopRite is quite bigger than what Leventis was, and there are some things in ShopRite that were not available at Leventis; then things like children and school items. Things are expensive but cheaper when one buys in bulk.
Comparing pricing with that in the open market, another costumer, Mrs. Nnenna Ofia said, “Some items are more expensive at ShopRite than the open market, while some items are cheaper than at the local market. The key is to know which product is cheaper at each location.”
According to her, a pack of Hungry man noodles sells for N100 in other shops, while it cost N99.99 at ShopRite, which she believes is a cheaper deal when she is making bulk purchase. At the other markets, six eggs cost N180 and at ShopRite it is N239.99. At the superstores, some of the prices have 99kobo attached to them, which gives the impression that the item is cheaper than what obtains outside and you can only get your one kobo balance if you pay with an ATM or credit card.
Mr Taiwo Ajayi, a shopper said things are cheaper in open markets, especially at a central market like Lagos.
According to him, “the overhead incurred by the modern day stores are high, and they have to sustain their business, by displaying original items.
In contrast to the days of UTC, modern day super stores target both the rich and the poor.
Most other stores usually sell petty items like beverages, sweets and biscuit, which are usually called provisions, but today’s stores now sell groceries, foodstuffs and even house hold merchandise.
One can buy almost everything required to cook a good meal in ShopRite.
There is also the food section where corporate executives quickly sneak in for lunch and quickly purchase seafood, chicken pasta, stew and even salad. On whether they are capable of running other stores out of business, Sonoiki said “that the others cannot liquidate super stores like ShopRite, which is large with roots in South Africa, both of them will exist side by side because consumers need both of them they both need to make provision for what the other is lacking.”
A Manager at the Lekki branch of shoprite, Adenike Osunoiki said, “we are aware of other operators’ prices; hence, we combine excellent service and a competitive range to keep customers coming for more.”
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