By Paul Ndiho
It is Xmas season again and the streets of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, are bustling with shoppers. Retailers are looking to make huge profits to compensate for what most entrepreneurs have called a difficult year.
In the United States, the Christmas shopping frenzy officially kicks off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, at the end of November. However, in Uganda, most shoppers don’t hit the stores until the last couple days before Christmas. This period, though relatively short, is important for Ugandan retailers. It’s also vital for service providers in hospitality and transport, who have suffered losses for most of this year and are pegging their hopes for a profit on the holiday season. In the city-center, men are looking for just the right gifts for their women, while the women are shopping for their men too.
“There is so much activity here in downtown Kampala. What this literary means, is that people take all their merchandise out of their shops and sell it on the streets. Why because they are targeting people who are shopping for Xmas so that’s why you see a lot of activity in the background.”
From students on holiday, to upcountry traders, to loving parents with shoestring budgets, tourists and to Ugandans living in the Diaspora who return home for December holidays, everyone is looking to buy something.
“For me I sell under garments and the business is moving very well because this Xmas season and we’re just trying to catch up. Xmas people come and buy – they have money they come and buy but other seasons there are a few people who come and buy. I’m just looking forward to it because last week and this week it’s really good.”
Parents are also digging in their wallets and purses for money to buy something for their children. And let’s not forget gifts for extended family members and friends.
Consumers are storming pricey shops and shopping arcades to buy items by popular designers. For some retailers the timing couldn’t be better.
“This is Xmas season and people are coming into town almost everywhere from up country to shop for Xmas. It is good we’re doing clean money.”
People with less disposable cash are storming stalls on the streets to select clothing and footwear. Even stage brokers are cashing in on this Xmas season.
“It’s because of the season people are very many in the city so we are getting a lot of money these days.”
Not everybody is cashing in on the Xmas sales. Joseph Lukwago, a retail trader in the “Kikubo” wholesale market says that his business is not doing as well.
“Business is not good as such because people are normally poor – people are very poor.”
His colleague shares the same sentiment.
There is no business — Ok we’re not getting enough customers.”
Haggling contests are a compulsory shopping culture in Kampala city. Starting prices are often reduced by 25 to 50%. Shoppers try to get prices lowered during the haggling process by walking away after the seller has revealed the item’s price, in hopes that the seller will call them back– or that they will be lured away by a competitive dealer.