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Low Patronage, Obscurity Hamper Business At Low-end shopping Complexes

complexPlaza Shop Owners Lament Poor Patronage 

THE culture of shopping has returned. Branded shopping malls like Shoprite, Pep Stores, and outlets subsumed under names like Ikeja Shopping Mall, Surulere Shopping Mall are springing up in different parts of Lagos and other cities.

From Ikeja to Surulere, Festac to Ojota and all over the city, there are also collections of shops within a location projected to be shopping centres.

A trip round Lagos to see if these unbranded shopping complexes are truly serving the purpose for which they were set up and if they are putting up a strong competition against the branded shopping malls in terms of patronage and sales. It was observed that many of the shopping complexes adopt the name, plaza.

Some of the complexes visited include; Arena shopping complex, Oshodi; Gansah Plaza, Ikeja and Assets-Corp Plaza, Ikeja. It was noticed that many of the shops within these shopping complexes were under lock and key. The level of human traffic in and out of these places was also low, especially compared to many of the branded shopping complexes.

Speaking on the activities within the Arena, a shopping complex in Oshodi, Teniola Masaku disclosed that most of the shops had no tenants and where they do, the owners had abandoned them because of low patronage.

She said the shops are quite expensive to lease, while those that rent the stores leave after months because of poor sales. She said the next shop to her, though had an occupant, had not opened for business for almost a year now and when the owner comes around, it was to pick one item or the other.

“Daily, you are not sure if you will even make any sales,” Masaku stated. Providing some insight into what could be responsible for the low patronage, she said it might be fueled by the restriction of non-residents of the Ikeja Cantonment using the cantonment gates to link Oshodi or Maryland.

“The restriction tends to limit patronage for the Arena. It is only those who live in Oshodi and its environ that could easily come into this place. “And these people would prefer the Oshodi market, as it is closer to them. Therefore, due to the restriction, people in Maryland and its environ cannot come in as before.

And that affects sales. Speaking further on low patronage, Masaku said, “There is not enough publicity, besides the cost of running the place is quite expensive; you pay service charge, whether there is electricity or not, you have to pay.” When Masaku was told about the flexible rent payment, she said though it is good, but when an average shop owner calculates the daily rent paid and the income from his or her transaction, there is no positive correlation.

“You can sit down for a week and nothing is coming in and at the end of the day, you are asked to pay service charge, obviously, you will not be happy.

And it is not that these traders do not want to pay, but there are no sales to enable to pay the charges or even give out for the maintenance fee.” For the maintenance fees, she disclosed that shops that do not have air conditioner pay N4000 per month and those with air conditioner pay N5,000.

One of the occupants at Assets-Corp Plaza Ikeja, Bode Johnson, said the complex is affected by low publicity and felt that better publicity would give the shopping complex better patronage. “This is why nobody knows the shopping complex, except where you have some of the shop owners who advertise their own business through any of the media to draw attention to the complex.

“This is unlike Shoprite and other malls that are known names. They have advertised a couple of times even if they do not advertise now; they already have the name and brand. I think owners of the complexes should brand and advertise it then that will draw more attention and more businesses for the shop owners.”

He however does not believe that cost is one of the reasons the shops within the complex, which is located opposite the Computer Village, are not occupied. “The shops here are more expensive than the shops in the Computer Village, even the ones that are not as big as this, cost even much more at the Computer Village.

But you know Computer Village has existed for a long time, as far back as 1999, even outside the country, Computer Village is known. And if you do not find a product in a shop, you can easily walk into the next, but here, just one or two people may be offering such a product for sale and sometimes these shops are not really close to each other. I think that is one of the factors affecting the patronage.”

He disclosed that some of the shops are occupied but are being used as warehouses by some traders within the Computer Village. “When you come in here, there are about 100 shops on each floor, half of the shops are locked and only a section of that is open for business.

And because there are few products on offer, people would prefer to go to the open market, where they could get products easily.

So letting out the shops to people who use them as store is really not a plus for the plaza. For Ugo Obidiegwu, a shopper, most of the unbranded shopping complexes get low patronage because residents cannot find the product or service they want when they visit except by chance.

She also observed that some of the shops in the unbranded shopping complexes have no occupants especially those in less prominent locations because traders are not attracted.

“But places like Shoprite, many people go there as a matter of status and sometimes for leisure, especially young people, may be because they are a popular brand. She said she has visited unbranded shopping complexes and their products are cheaper than those in branded complexes, which to her should encourage better patronage, but the reverse is the case.

Obidiegwu also claimed that the shops in unbranded complexes are cheaper in terms of rent, which should also encourage traders to take them, but it is usually not so.

Segun Adeyi said that the planning and organisation within the branded shopping complexes are better and probably aid patronage, observing that most of the unbranded shopping complexes do not have fun and recreational spots, which are available in the upscale ones to attract more patronage.

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