War of the MegastoresWell, one megastore and two medium-sized stores anyway. Two weeks ago, saw the opening of Nigeria's much-anticipated, first 'Western-style' shopping mall, The Palms. Anyone who regularly drives on the Lekki-Epe Expressway would have seen the building in various stages of completion over the past months. For now, only a handful of stores have actually opened-up to the public - among them are Shoprite (a huge supermarket akin to Stop and Shop in the U.S, or Tesco in the U.K) and Game (reportedly, since I'm yet to go there, a we-stock-everything Walmart type of store). When finally completed, the mall will also house a cinema as well as a multitude of boutiques and apparently just one bookstore (The developers sized-up the shopping priorities of Nigerians tragically accurately).
Wide view of The Palms Shopping Mall (Will try and get a better photo if I can)
Okay, great, so we have our first real mall. Yay for us! Now on to the interesting part. Around the same time The Palms opened, two hugely popular supermarkets on the island, Park 'n' Shop and Goodies both closed down. We all wondered why - until the rumour mill had it that the Customs authorities had shut-down both stores for smuggling in goods. Now, until the arrival of Shoprite, Park 'n' Shop and Goodies were two of the biggest supermarkets on Lagos island, and so if they had been involved in any illegal activity, it would not have been difficult to find this out. The fact that the timing of this 'discovery' has turned out to be so fortuitous for Shoprite, given that its major competitors were closed-down in the busiest shopping week of the year, has of-course led to many speculations that the tip-off came from Shoprite.
Close-up of The Palms Shopping Mall with Shoprite in the Foreview
If this is true, I think it's a really sad commentary on the way business is done today. As a consumer I obviously welcome competition because it benefits me. I believe that companies should too, because competition forces them to provide goods and services more efficiently. I also believe that over time companies tend to find their niche market, be this dictated by locality; or by range, price and/or quality of goods and services provided. While I recognise that, for instance, retail behemoths can afford to slash their prices to a level that smaller, family-owned businesses might not be able to, these smaller businesses might more than compensate for this by the quality of personal attention they provide to their customers or specialised range of goods they offer. My point is that each type and size of business can find its own market without needing to stomp out all competitors. But then, maybe I'm just being naive about the hard, cold realities that companies, in this age of big business and globalisation, face.