Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Fastmoving reported on the impacts of supermarket expansion  on small shops and informal markets in Kenya

Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Kenya has experienced a boom in supermarkets, with the retail outlets rapidly expanding in suburbs and town across the East African nation as competition stiffens.

The big stores have taken their services closer to the people enabling them to access easily a variety of goods that include household items, electronic equipment, clothes and groceries.

On the flipside, the result of the rapid expansion has been that the retail outlets have ruined business for shopkeepers in areas they have expanded to as they become one-stop shop for many consumers.

However, while shops have become one of the biggest casualties of rapid supermarket expansion, the retail outlets have failed to disrupt business for vegetable stores, mainly run by women.

The businesses, locally known as mama mboga, which means a woman selling vegetables, have fended off the muscles and predatory nature of supermarkets.

The women have remained the preferred choice for consumers, who want to buy different kinds of vegetables, tomatoes, onions, fruits, potatoes and other related food items.

This is despite the fact that the supermarkets have established sections where they sell all manner of groceries to woo shoppers.

“I have not experienced any drop in sales ever since two leading supermarkets were established in this area,” Nancy Kimani, a vegetable seller in Komarock, a suburb on the east of the capital said on Saturday. “People still come to buy here vegetables, onions and tomatoes despite the supermarkets stocking the items.”

One of the supermarkets, Naivas, was established in the area about five years ago while the second one, Setlight, is about two years old. A third retail chain, Nakumatt, is set to set shop in the area soon.

“Naivas is the biggest. When the retail outlet started its operations in this area, it was not selling groceries. At that time, I did not fear for my business but after about two years, they began stocking groceries that included tomatoes and onions,” she said.

As many other women in the trade, Kimani recounted she knew her business may collapse.

“I visited the supermarket soon after they established the groceries’ section and believed my business will not survive. Various kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper and onions were neatly arranged on the shelves, ” she said.

Her fears were informed by the fact that many people were turning the supermarkets into their preferred shopping stores.

“Besides that, I had seen a friend close her shop because of the two supermarkets. People were no longer buying things like sugar, bread and milk from shops yet these were the shopkeepers’ mainstay,” she said.

Kimani continued with her business as she prayed the worst does not happen. About two years down the line, time has proved her right.

Her business has not only survived, but it has also flourished despite the presence of the supermarkets.

She has been able to expand it, enabling her customers to buy different kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, which have become popular among Kenyans.

“I have seen the effect of supermarket on shops but for us, we have been lucky since our businesses have defied the retail outlets. My sales have increased and I am hoping to open another grocery in a different part of the estate,” she said.

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About Urban Choreography

Landscape Architect specializing in the design and project management of Commercial, Leisure & Urban Landscape Environments Currently researching for a PhD on the value and contribution of urban public space to the environmental resilience and liveability of cities.
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