Saturated, but still preferred retail address

Ellerines railpark mall
Ellerines railpark mall

As a country’s middle class bourgeons along with the economy, the shopping culture also nurtures thus contributing to more opportunities for retailers both local and international. This is a trend that has been obtaining in Botswana for several years now, leading to some analysts to conclude that the market is now saturated. But with a well established infrastructure, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita that ranks very high in sub-Saharan Africa, Staff Writer PAULINE DIKUELO argues that the potential is still high for retailers seeking to open shop in Botswana as evidenced by the recent authoritative 2015 AT Kearney’s African Retail Development Index (ARDI) which ranked Botswana as the second most lucrative retail market in Africa

The Botswana’s retail sector has grown at a very fast pace led mostly by South African retailers that were seeking to diversify away from a saturated market in that country. Backed by a good supply chain infrastructure and growing shopping culture, Botswana has been fertile ground for retailers led by a number of well known retail giants such as Shoprite, Woolworths, Pick’n Pay, Spar and Massmart who have already gained foothold. Local chain stores like Choppies have also found their niche in the market and have subsequently expanded to the outside markets setting up shop in countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and currently eyeing the Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania markets.

According to the 2015 AT Kearney’s African Retail Development Index (ARDI) Botswana has emerged as the second most attractive retail market in Africa after Gabon. The assessment that was done looked at attributes such as the market attractiveness, country risk, market saturation as well as the pressure from the competitors.

The report states that Botswana has stable and transparent pricing, drooling private label exposure as well as convenient and quality purchases. According to the Managing Director of Choppies, Ramachandran Ottapath there are still plenty of opportunities in the retail industry urging locals to take advantage of them.

 “The business is doing well, and there are so many opportunities that awaits anyone who wants to venture into the industry,” he says. With the infrastructure boom, Botswana’s shopping mall developments have also remained strong over the past three years as malls like Sebele, Railpark, Airport Junction, Northgate as well as Mahalapye shopping complex were opened.

This contributed to Botswana being cited as a good example of what an economy can achieve in Africa as the country has increased international exposure as well as significant innovation.

For her part, the Chief Executive Officer of Vantage Properties, Sethebe Manake argues that the opportunity Botswana offers to a retailer is that the consumer is prepared and able to shop, in comparison to other African countries.

“That does not mean the demand for retail has increased or dropped, it just means that when weighed against other African countries we offer a better opportunity. If you go even deeper into the 2014 report, the recommendation for retailers entering Botswana like South Africa is that they differentiate themselves from the existing retail offering, because our market is mature,” says Manake.

She adds, “when you look at the specific scores for the 2015 index, our score for market saturation is pretty low, in comparison to other African countries, so already it is appreciated that the retail supply is quite high.”

The 2015 Botswana Property Pulse check released in July studied the new behaviour of consumers and how they are now forcing shopping centres to offer more than just a place to buy goods, but more of a shopping experience.

“Consumers want WI-FI, they are now more and more exposed to online shopping so the shopping experience is becoming more and more important to make the consumer come to your centre,” read the report.

However, ARDI points out that although the market is saturated in terms of player and market share, the market as a whole is still growing.

The country is said to be still a key investors’ entry point considering its proximity to neighbouring attractive markets like Namibia and South Africa.

The African Retail Development Index ranks the top countries in sub-Saharan Africa for retail expansion. Based on AT Kearney’s Global Retail Development Index, the ARDI identifies not only the most attractive market but also countries that offer the most potential in the future.

The 2015 ARDI ranks the leading 15 nations and reconfirms the region’s potential arising from not just discussed markets like Nigeria and Ghana, but also small dynamic markets and mid sized but fast growing countries.

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