Writer: Mpho Khorombi
Townships are expanding and they now have improved infrastructure, shopping malls and their residents have higher income levels. Township consumers have shifted to the middle market and have increased buying power. Marketers and retailers have realised the growing potential of the township market and many have jumped on board to target this elusive market. However, it deeply saddens me to see how consumers use the very same money with the exact same value but because of the locations of leading retail outlets the service and the quality of the goods is clearly not the same. Retailers and brands alike are limiting their potential in this market due to misconceptions of township communities and mistakenly offering downscaled products.
This article does not intend on exposing any brands but from my personal experience some of these retailers located ko Kasi (townships) provide different levels of service to paying customers who pay using the exact same rand used in the suburbs. When you walk into a retailer in a suburban area you’re most likely to get an excellent customer service, great atmosphere, a clean environment (boy oh boy, it smells amazing) and fresh products. Consecutively, if you visit the very same retailer which is located in a township you are greeted by unpleasant staff, dirty crammed aisles, poorly stocked shelves and fresh produce that is not necessarily fresh.
It saddens me how obvious and prevalent this phenomenon is and something that is unacceptable is ‘highly’ accepted. I strongly believe both parties are to blame here, inferiority complex has caused people to be accustomed to always receiving the shorter end of the stick to the point that the so called “superior” groups feel entitled to premium quality service everywhere they go. If people residing in townships did not accept it and instead mobilised and boycotted these stores for getting poor service (like they do with service delivery by municipalities) perhaps retailers would wake up.
I am truly disappointed in the fact that retailers do not see a problem in this (unless they’re not aware, which I highly doubt) and ironically most of their revenues are generated from stores that are located in townships and not the ones in the suburbs. This is a tad bit disturbing because in essence they take money from the poor and go invest it in stores where the rich shop just so that they can be more comfortable than they already are. This is totally unfair and I strongly believe this issue has to be brought into light.
Don’t get me wrong I am not criticizing the rich, if they can afford to live and shop in good areas good for them; it is because of their hard work after all. My concern is that if we put social status aside, at the end of the day we all use the same money, which amounts to the same value and all retailers should give their customers the high level of service that they deserve, regardless of their geographic areas. Providing poor quality, cheaper products to try to suit this market will be missing the mark. The township shopper is looking for quality brands and products that they can trust.
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