What is regarded as a religious holiday by many could probably pass as a commercial day to retailers who are savouring the prospects of huge profits despite a generally challenging financial year, as consumers thronged supermarkets up to yesterday, seemingly undeterred by unjustified price increases.
There was heightened activity from Saturday up to yesterday as consumers did last minute shopping ahead of today’s Christmas celebrations.
Supermarkets have experienced a boom in sales in the past few days as consumers sought to make the best of this year’s festivities from what remains of their disposable incomes following a bout of price escalations which hit the roof in October.
A number of major supermarkets such as Pick ‘n’ Pay, OK Zimbabwe, Spar and Food World, had long queues of people buying an assortment of basic food stuffs, particularly bread, sugar, cooking oil, ice cream, chicken, beef and margarine, among others.
Clothing shops also had their fair share of activity as parents and guardians sought to buy clothes for children who still expect Christmas to bring with it new clothes.
The Herald Business also visited a number of tuckshops in downtown Harare where it witnessed hordes of people buying products such as cooking oil, Mazoe Orange Crush, soft drinks and sugar, in bulk.
The tuckshops are laden with almost all goods that are often not readily available in supermarkets amid reports that producers are opting to supply the small-scale traders who pay in cash — bond notes and US dollars — for their orders, unlike supermarkets that make electronic payments.
The tuckshops sell a carton of 2kg brown sugar at US$13 or $32 (bond notes), cartons of Mazoe ($35 bond or US$14,50) and Koo baked beans (US$11).
Other retailers with shops within Harare and nearby towns were also buying in bulk, both in bond notes and US dollars, so as to cash in on the boom in business.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) executive director Rosemary Siyachitema, confirmed to our Harare Bureau yesterday that there was reasonable consumer demand for goods ahead of Christmas celebrations.
“We have been to a couple of supermarkets and people were busy doing their shopping. However, the supermarkets are not as crowded as they used to be in previous years,” said Ms Siyachitema.
“There is not much of a hustle and bustle; it seems people are just buying and going back to their homes,” she said.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers’ (CZR) Denford Mutashu concurred with Ms Siyachitema, saying there wasn’t much activity until late last week as citizens sought to get basics to spice up their festive holidays.
“Basically, there has been subdued activity in the month compared to the expectations we had as an industry, but I must say that Saturday and today (yesterday) have had better and improved activity,” said Mr Mutashu.
He said unlike in previous years, consumers were largely focusing spending their hard earned money “on back to school products”, with a view to making sure their children had all school essentials “before feasting”.
Added Mr Mutashu: “We also noted, since Thursday, an improvement in the supply and availability of the 14 basic and monitored goods due to continued Government support in as far as the supply of foreign currency is concerned and we really appreciate that, although it’s not at the level we want.”
In Bulawayo, the central business district was a hive of activity yesterday as people went about buying various items, especially food and clothing for today. Pavements at supermarkets were almost impassable, the same for many roads in the city.
Ms Sarah Mushandu of Mahatshula North said: “It has been a tough year for all of us. Prices are very high and some things are not in the shops. I looked for bread but I can’t find it anywhere. But, Christmas Day comes only once a year, so we will celebrate the best way we can.”
Mr Roy Mudenda from Reigate said he will celebrate Christmas Day with his wife and three sons in the morning and have drinks with his friends later.
“We have something lined up with my family and friends. I think I will be at home for most of the day but later link up with friends for a drive in town and a few drinks.”