“Pon-mo and locust beans” is all they always come to ask for- Ibadan shoprite attendant reveals


A breath of fresh air seemed to have hit Ibadan city with the opening of Shoprite retail store on Thursday, June 27. Shoprite, located beside the famous Cocoa House, the city’s tallest structure, in Dugbe, attracted thousands of residents on its opening day on June 28.
The size of the crowd that thronged the mall made it the biggest attraction in the city. Various jokes also hit the social media about the crowd of people that greeted the store on its opening day. A famous joke says 102,000 people visited the store on that day, with only about N35,000 made from sales. Many, the inventors of the jokes claimed, were at the store to window shop and take pictures.

However, the situation had not changed much after one week. There was a large crowd of people milling in and out of the mall, filling up all the spaces within the store.
But so were the cash points; shoppers queued up at the 17 main cash points and the additional two points at the kiosk section, giving the cashiers no moment of rest on the job. Business owners, civil servants, students and even school pupils in uniforms made up the crowd, buying notebooks and other school items.
But in general, youths and middle-aged persons seemed to make up the bulk of people at the store, FN source observed.
A student, Mr. Wale Olusola, who was at the mall on the day it opened, said there was “mad human traffic” within and around the mall.  He said, “We had to move slowly because there were so many people coming in and going out. It was like forming queues all over the place. People also had to be vigilant so that their phones and wallets didn’t get stolen by pick-pockets in the crowd.”
A businessman, Mr. Biodun Azeez, described the opening of the mall as a “good thing”, saying he was happy with the development.
He said, “I’ve been here twice in three days and I always buy things. There is always something to buy because it’s hard to resist the lure of the goods here. It’s like they are all shouting ‘come buy me’. And you don’t need to haggle over the price, which is sometimes frustrating.”
Another shopper, Mrs. Olumide Abulude, described the mall as a ‘one-stop shop’ and a new feature in the city.
“You don’t even need to visit an open market like Agbeni because you can get everything here. Their prices are also reasonable. You can get groceries, meat and even locust beans here,” she said, adding that people generally have a wrong notion about the city.
“The truth is that Ibadan is up there and its people know how to enjoy life. You can see the crowd here and the number of people buying and buying things, Abulude added.
However, a shopper, Mr. Adewale Mayowa, said the crowd had been split between the real buyers and the window shoppers.
He said, “There are indeed, a large number of real shoppers, but there are also some who only come to see, take photos or buy something small like sausage.”
Shoprite is located within a merged stuctuer comprising the Cocoa Mall and the Heritage Mall.
The Heritage Mall, which occupies the old Sketch House, was financed by O’dua Investment Company at the cost of about N1.4bn, while the Cocoa Mall, which is an extension of Cocoa House, is being done in conjunction with a private developer, Topservices Limited.
Even though the malls were yet to be completed, as construction work was still ongoing, when FN source visited the place, residents were already excited about the prospect of having arguably the biggest mall in South-West Nigeria.
Aside from Shoprite, others like PEP, Mr. Price, Cash and Carry, Filmhouse Cinema, and Lifemate Furniture have begun operations, while other spaces are being prepared.
But with the addition of the shopping malls and Shoprite to the scores of other stores in Ibadan, the shopping culture of the residents will arguably experience a major change. Many already suspect that open markets like Agbeni and Aleshinloye might suffer now that people can get most of the products under a roof, without having to move from stall to stall, in the sun.
But a trader at Agbeni market, who identified herself as Alhaja Risikat, debunked the fears.
She said, “There will always be people who prefer to come to us; so I don’t think it is ever going to affect us. We used to have Kingsway and UTC in Ibadan and there were still other markets then, so it won’t make any difference at all.”
Similarly, the managements of some other big stores in the city have also said they are not threatened by Shoprite’s arrival.
The expatriate owner of Trolleys, a store a few blocks away from Shoprite, Mr. George Kay, described the situation as “give and take.”
He said, “It is true that Shoprite brings a lot of traffic to this place, but in that process, it is also opening the place up. So some people coming here for the first time will notice our store too and visit. “Sometimes, people who have been in traffic for long would stop by our place and not even get to Shoprite. And there is nothing they have that I don’t have, but there are things I have that they don’t have.
“But on the other hand, the traffic here at the weekend was so bad that the entrance to my shop was blocked. People coming to my store were hindered by the traffic situation. So there is the benefit angle and there is the damage angle too; but no fear from me.”
Also at Foodco in Bodija, which offers a variety of services and products, an official who did not give his name, said, “The sky is large for every bird to fly.”
The source also said nothing had changed at Foodco since the opening of Shoprite in Ibadan.
He said, “There is a big population in Ibadan and we have our loyal customers. Since they came, there has been no difference in our sales, so the sky is large enough. People may go there (Shoprite) and check what is happening there, but our customers know what we also offer.”
A representative of Zooma store, also at Bodija, who spoke to our correspondent, described the population of Ibadan as a huge factor to consider.
She said, “When you consider the population of Ibadan, it’s enough to go round. However, I don’t think their (Shoprite) coming to Ibadan will affect standard stores. I think it’s the open markets that will be affected. Since they opened, business has been the same here.”
At Challenge, a PEP store, which opened in December 2012, has been popular with residents around there.
An official of the store, who spoke in confidence, also said the store had nothing to worry about.
The source said, “We are not threatened at all because we have the cheapest prices in town and our customers know that; that’s what works for us.”
Meanwhile, an official of Shoprite, who spoke under condition of anonymity because he said he was not authorised to speak to journalists, said business has been good at the store.
However, when asked about sales figures, the official said employees were not allowed to discuss sales. He, however, noted that the store was worthy of the attention it had got in the city.
The source said, “Well, business has been good but we don’t ever discuss our sales. People have been coming to buy variety of things; bread has been doing well and people even come for locust beans.
“When you compare the kind of investment we have put in the place, you will know that it’s worth it. We offer our customers aesthetics and the very best.”

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