Brisk business for retailers as buyers stock up for polls [Business Daily (Kenya)]
(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Supermarkets recorded huge sales in the run-up to Monday's general election in part because top retailers announced they would remain closed for the day.
A spot-check at supermarkets within the Central Business District (CBD) revealed that many customers have been bulk-buying commodities most of last week.
The higher purchases were supported by the fact that it was end-month and employees have been paid, but others were just being cautious about the electioneering which last time turned violent.
Uchumi, Nakumatt, Naivas and Tuskys supermarkets announced that they would remain closed the entire day which is a public holiday and resume operations on Tuesday.
"We will close all our branches countrywide to allow our staff to exercise their democratic right to vote," Atul Shah, the Nakumatt managing director, told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.
"This election is special since we will be electing a wider array of leaders to serve in the devolved government and it is only right we allow our staff to participate in this historic moment," he said, adding that he expected the poll to be peaceful.
Even as these businesses close shop for 24 hours, they admitted selling more stuff ahead of the polls, though the increased activity could be more motivated by fear than need.
Naivas' business marketing manager, Willy Kimani, admitted that many customers did more bulk buying than is usually the case at the end of the month.
Mr Kimani added that, even while they remain optimistic about a smooth election, they have, as well taken precaution by taking out political insurance covers.
"It is brisk business for supermarkets at the moment as we are seeing customers stocking up on frozen food and drinks due to uncertainty," he said.
"I think most Kenyans believe and expect the election will end well, but given the near week-long lockdown that happened in 2007, they are just taking natural precautions."
Uchumi chief executive Jonathan Ciano downplayed the stocking up claims, saying that the increased activity was due to the normal end-month shopping.
But a top executive with a blue chip manufacturer tended toward caution. "I have bought a lot of food stuff including the long-life UHT milk and flour. You never know what will happen," said the manager who cannot be named without compromising her position.
The bulk buying is happening amid assurances from the government, Kenya Police and the Judiciary of a peaceful election cemented by several peace campaigns and reforms initiated in the country.
(Read: UN confident in peaceful March polls)
There was also huge demand for cash ahead of the polling day. Mobile service provider Safaricom said it would ensure its mobile money platform, M-Pesa, was not disrupted during the period in which it anticipates high demand similar to that of Christmas festivities that peaked at 10,000 transactions per minute.
"We have prepared the M-Pesa platform and our dealer network to deal with the increased demand for service," said Nzioka Waita, the company's director of corporate affairs, in a past interview. Safaricom services proved crucial for emergencies during the last elections.
Kenyan banks have also taken up political risk insurance cover in excess of Sh15 billion reflecting fears of a repeat of the 2008 chaos and a run on deposits as customers raise their cash holding during the electoral process.
The lenders have taken up political risk insurance covers protecting themselves from chaos-related losses which five years ago included vandalism, business closure and accumulation of bad loans following destruction of property, businesses and displacement of borrowers.
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