Vendors pile pressure on retailers

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THE Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) says its members are feeling the pressure from unfair competition brought by informal traders and unregistered dealers who have flooded the streets in urban centres.

Informal trading has been spreading across major cities like Bulawayo as vendors and unregistered dealers take advantage of currency distortions to maximise profits by riding on cash sales and highly inflated mobile money transactions. Recently, major grocery items made locally and some imported, have flooded the streets where they are sold at lower prices for cash in Zim-dollar and various foreign currency denominations. Other dealers now sell their products just outside established retail shops.

CZR president, Mr Denford Mutashu, said while vending has been there for years, failure to regulate its operations was disruptive to formal industrial growth.

“The unfair competition posed by street vendors threatens the viability of the retail and wholesale sector as they sell smuggled and stolen goods at lower than sector cost prices,” he said.

“They are selling in US$, rand, pula and Zimdollar cash only. Once money flows into their hands, the cycle of cash dies as practically they don’t bank.”

The flexibility of vendors in all currencies makes them more acceptable to customers with foreign currency and in that process they outplay the formal sector.

Mr Mutashu also said some of the products being sold on the streets like alcohol were supposed to be only traded by people with licences.

“Vendors are smuggling alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and sell from pavements and cars. When we were growing up, we used to know that no one can sell alcoholic beverages without a liquor licence or from pavements, vehicles and markets stalls.

“This marks the extent of deterioration of monitoring and enforcement of regulations across the country,” he said.

Mr Mutashu said the dealer-mentality has created more vendors and killed many jobs in industry and disrupted traditional value chains. Already retailers are sharing business spoils from the busiest festive time of year with vendors and dealers. In the last few months CZR reported that its members had suffered a significant drop in volumes on the back of widespread increase in number of vendors and the inflationary pressures, which saw prices of basic commodities rise beyond the reach of many.-chroncielcolzw

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