Chineme Okafor writes that the growing middle class in Abuja has given rise to shopping malls, supermarket chains and convenience stores where household products and consumables can be sourced
Nigerians have generally stuck to referring to traditional departmental or grocery stores from where all sorts of house-household goods ranging from meat, frozen foods, dairy and bakery products, fruits and vegetables can be sourced as a supermarket.
The nametag, ‘supermarket’ has remained widely synonymous amongst Nigerians of all class as any one-stop arena from where you can immediately buy just anything for use at home; this is however irrespective of marked growth in the number and character of departmental stores across the country owing largely to considerable competition, consolidation, increasing societal affluence and of course, the resurgence of the middle class.
As a growing federal city, Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, has witnessed an incremental growth in the population of its residents which has also amplified the growth of certain social structures like shopping malls or departmental stores to meet with increasing demands of city dwellers.
In the early days from 1999, one could conveniently count with the fingers, the number of large-sized departmental stores that dominated Abuja’s shopping scene; such supermarkets like the Amigo, Sahad Stores and perhaps, Grand Square appeared to have held sway and appealed to the exotic taste of society’s top class as well as foreign recruits working and living in Abuja. This is albeit the existence of medium-sized supermarkets located within various neighbourhood of Abuja.
But today, the scene appears to have transformed from what it used to be back then to rather an open arena of choices with the emergence of varieties of departmental stores and supermarkets scattered all over Abuja’s growing neighbourhood, offering assorted goods and services to a wide spectrum of people.
From Apo to Garki, Wuse as well as Asokoro and Gwarinpa amongst other districts in Abuja, residents of the city seem to have got at least two different favourite shopping malls to shop from depending on their needs and pockets; these choices eventually serve out their purposes except for the inconvenience of supermarket-hopping to get all that may be required by respective shoppers.
In essence, what could be gotten from Amigo in Wuse 2 may be gotten from Grand Square in Central Business District (CBD) but slightly with differences in price, product trademark or brand name, but mostly, consumers are often seen to be faithfully inclined to certain choices of supermarket in the city for reasons best known to them.
Just like in the past when Abuja consumers had limited choices of supermarket to make from, THISDAY observed that some of the contemporary major factors that affect consumers choices of supermarket to shop from have not always been the quality, availability and affordability of products sold in a particular supermarket but also the challenges of getting comfortable parking spaces for their cars following the new policy of paid parking permits in Abuja as well as the growing traffic culture of certain zones and roads in the city; certain supermarkets have to this fact lost the full patronage of some of their customers who would rather prefer to drive all the way to supermarkets with similar offering but less traffic and comfortable parking lots for their cars.
Also, the recent opening of high-end supermarkets like Exclusive Superstores in Wuse 2, Shoprite in Apo, Next Cash and Carry along Kado and Spar in CBD as well as hundreds of other medium-sized shops scattered within various neighbourhood of Abuja has made shopping for residents quite conducive at the same time curtailing the ugly sides of business monopoly that had existed before now; everyone seems involved in various legally recognised corporate scheming to outwit each in the competition to win the patronage of the customer.
Some have even gone all the way to include certain levels and measures of ambience such as “suya spots,” barbing salon and spa, quick-fix restaurants that package and sell assorted food to customers as well as other minor but essential services to keep their customers.
THISDAY took a walk around town, sampling the character of some of Abuja’s major supermarkets which include Dunes Restaurant (Maitama), Spar Supermarket (Central Business District), Next Cash and Carry (Kado), Amigo Supermarket (Wuse), Grand Square Supermarket (Central Business District), Park and Shop (Wuse), Exclusive Superstore (Wuse), Shoprite (Apo) and of course Sahad Supermarket (Garki) and discovered that in every sense, most of these supermarkets have come to standout in their respective product range, public reputation, ambience and indeed price and affordability.
Amigo has over its 15 years of existence metamorphosed into Abuja's most reliable supermarket with ardently loyal customer base especially from foreign nationals that are mostly made up of workers from the Middle East region.
Its long history has granted it so much strength to weather whatever competitive storm that may have come its way with the emergence of new shopping marts in the city; once the one-stop mart for imported edible items like nutritious nuts and cereals, Amigo is ensconced within the ever eventful Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent in Wuse 2 and it offers its customers a broad range of consumer items that are almost imported.
Amigo has attained a coveted reputation and mostly preferred by foreign nationals for its seeming stock of imported products and items that may not be available anywhere else in the city; these products are mostly traditional amongst the foreigners, that is, products they have often used in their home countries prior to their relocation to Nigeria.
Also worthy of mention is Amigo's outdoor bakery; Deli which sells hot and cold snacks that include Shawarma, waffles and pancakes which is popular amongst expatriates. Amigo is quite expensive to shop for the average man but it meets the demands of its target audience; it has amongst its challenges, very limited space for cars to park and this adds to the constraints of shoppers especially at peak hours which usually start from 3pm.
In all, the supermarket has got very good range of consumer products and it can comfortably boast of its monopoly in certain products; its collection of nuts is excellent.
Very stylish and cosmopolitan, Dunes Supermarket is located along the Aguiyi Ironsi Road in highbrow Maitama district of Abuja.
Housed within the attractive huge structure also known as the Dunes centre, a stroll through the two floor supermarket that has got embossed marble coating, one is sure to see a beautiful waterfall fountain, delicatessen and ice-cream bar as well as a courtyard café.
Dunes has got a pleasantly satisfying taste in offerings such as confectioneries, snacks, frozen food and all other household consumables.
It has also got a lifestyle section which is relatively new and offers such products as bed linen, Tupperware and assorted accessories. Dunes can easily pass as one of such malls seen in Europe following its appeal as a global brand, it appears a no-go area for the average pocket but gives its patron the feeling of a global shopper.
Make no mistakes about the character of Dunes because it has very limited Nigerian products in stock even though it is adequately stocked with very friendly environment courtesy of its civilised attendants. It has also got a unique cafe that could make a visitor repeat visits to the supermarket plus a good parking lot for cars.
Sahad store is unarguably targeted at average Abuja residents with its relatively cheap prices for products when compared with some other supermarkets in the city.
Located right in Garki Area 11, the store has gone on to beat every fragment of “elitism" that characterizes most supermarkets in Abuja. It has got about four floors that hold almost everything from groceries, clothing, electronics, mobile phones, computers, television sets and other household appliances.
Sahad also sells home and office furniture; it is distinctly Nigerian in that you will find something and everything Nigerian; accordingly, it has become an ideal shopping spot for majority of Abuja’s working class and offers amongst other wares what you would have to get from the regular market at very good budgets.
Traffic around Sahad stores can sometimes get disorganised but it has managed to create a good packing lot for customers who often crowd its food section at peak times. Sahad equally has cultured store attendants and you can almost find just a product you really do not expect to get at Sahad.
Park ‘N’ Shop
Park ‘N' Shop is equally located in Lagos and Port Harcourt, which makes it quite popular amongst first time guests in Abuja.
It is sandwiched in-between collections of plazas like the Banex, Emab and Sharif plazas on the busy Aminu Kano crescent in Wuse 2 and has remained the flagship retail brand of Artee Group which owns Nigeria's most popular department store chain.
Accordingly, the shop’s leading departments and formats includes, a chain of fashion brand called 'lifestyle', home and office décor, premium lighting and electronics amongst many others.
Selling wares on two well air-conditioned floors, Park ’N’ Shop has got spaciousness both within it and the parking area; it also offers quality and affordable goods for Abuja’s upwardly mobile workers.
Undoubtedly enormous in size and content, Exclusive stores is also located in Wuse 2 of Abuja and operates within three fully loaded floors that equally has a basement and large car park within it.
Shopping in Exclusive stores is quite easy and that perhaps explains why you have too many young adults dotting around it every now and then.
It has plenty of space to move about with the ambience of a wholesale supermarket where you could get anything for a good price. The store has multiple payment points but occasionally, there could be traffic around the pay points owing to its large patronage especially at peak hours that starts from 4pm in the evening.
Getting a good parking lot is rarely a challenge to patrons unlike some supermarkets in the city; however, a peep at the price tags on some articles rings the bell on the word “exclusive” into shoppers’ ears.
The workers are generally polite and very helpful but the store sometimes run out of stock. Albeit its somewhat expensive nature, Exclusive stores is still a whole lot cheaper than some supermarkets in Abuja plus its outdoor cafe which offers refreshing smoothie with hot snack to go with.
Tucked away in the quiet Usuma crescent off Gana Street in Maitama, 212 which was originally located within the 911 Mall along the same Gana Street in Maitama once competed comfortably with the popular Amigo supermarket.
It now occupies a more modest location that is smaller in space compared to what it had at the 911 Mall. As expected, the supermarket which many loyal patrons consider to be very original has got less variety of goods in stock but maintains a reputation for stocking very beautiful wines and spirits.
Its café which it maintained at the 911 Mall has closed down but consumers can also buy gift items, groceries, perfumes, cosmetics at moderately good prices. It still maintains its cosy and relaxed atmosphere and rarely experiences vehicular and human traffic due to its location and perhaps market target.
One of very few new shopping marts to profoundly grace the shopping skyline of Abuja is H-Medix. It started off very humbly with mini pharmacy and supermarkets scattered within Maitama and Wuse 2 until it recently opened a mega supermarket and pharmaceutical products wholesale outlet very close to Amigo on the same Adetokunbo Ademola Street Wuse 2.
Accordingly owned and operated by a young Nigerian, H-Medix with its blend of pharmaceutical supplies chain and household consumables has so far stood firm in breaking into the big scene albeit humbly.
It does not deal in groceries as you would find in other shops like Exclusive but concentrates its efforts on providing for its patrons quality pharmaceutical products and other household consumables at affordable prices. Drugs, toiletries, provisions and perfumes are some of what you will find at H-Medix.
Also ensconced within its Wuse 2 location is a restaurants (Salsa), Suya spot (Yahuza suya spot) and of course a barbing salon and spa centre; just like its close door neighbour, Amigo, it has also got a share of parking challenges which is always made easy by few personnel stationed outside to ensure optimisation of available parking spaces.
Shoprite opened its fifth outlet in Nigeria on the June 21, 2012 with the unveiling of Abuja Shoprite within Grandtower Mall in Apo.
The arrival of Shoprite in Abuja has been received so well by residents considering its popularity with affordability and good products stock.
Its Abuja outlet has got large parking lot for shoppers, well stocked departments, competitive prices and customer-centric but it has also got other challenges that include consistently built up traffic on the slim double-lane road that also leads to Apo mechanic village and a host of other residential estates on that axis.
Traffic on the road can be extreme and frustrating while it is also essential to point out the porosity of security measures employed at the mall in this era of continuous security threats; it is largely easy for mischief makers to just drive in unchecked. There is also an open sewage pond behind its main shopping area that gives out a stench.