Dickson Mangena, Business Reporter
SMALL to medium businesses operating flea markets in Bulawayo have said the liquidity challenges the country is facing has hit hard their business, with December which was expected to be a busy month, recoding subdued sales.
Sunday Business spoke to some of the business operators last week who said December was probably one of the worst in terms of sales compared to previous years.
“We used to get about $1 000 to $1 200 in December but we could not get that much last year because most people did not have money. They could not access money from banks and also because of the withdrawal limits,” said Mr Nyasha Simango who operates a flea market near the busy Basch Street Terminus (Egodini).
Mr Simango said business started to drop last year and has not picked this year.
“Because of the cash crisis and that people are always in bank queues they now prioritise essentials like rentals, school fees and food,” said Mr Simango.
Some of the vendors said business was even worse last month.
“January is a difficult month for everyone. Sometimes you would go home without selling anything. We were just coming because we could not just sit at home,” said another vendor Mr Rawlings Mathobela.
Some of the operators said they could not readily accept plastic money as their business involves buying the merchandise outside the country.
“Even if we want to use swipe machines, that will mean that we are also going to spend too much time in the bank queues than working. For now I do not think we can do that,” said another vendor, Mrs Loveness Matsikire.
“We hope things will get better soon, where people would have money and start buying again like they used to,” said Mr Simango.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) coordinator Mr Michael Ndiweni said the informal sector has not yet embraced plastic money.
“Business is not generally good because of the liquidity crunch. The informal sector has not yet embraced plastic money because of different challenges. We hope that a lasting solution will be put across to solve this problem because the sector is contributing to the growth of the economy. There is too much money that is circulating in the informal sector for it to be ignored,” said Mr Ndiweni.
According to Zimstat, in its Survey of Services Report 2013, the country has about 27 871 flea market operators. The value and percentage distribution of income in flea markets classified by income indicated that total income realised in flea markets was $337,7 million.
The sector, together with hair salons jointly employed 9 253 people in the period the study was undertaken, with the figure expected to have gone up as the economy informalised driven by company closures and massive job cuts.