Successful business people know how to recognise the niche in the market and take the gap. This is all the more evident in townships where almost every corner has a conveniently located spaza shop.
Each spaza shop is different in the sense that each owner is different. This difference is seen on which brands a shop stocks and the price of the goods on offer. These two aspects make a big difference as there is more competition and each and every business owner has keep customers coming back in order to make a living.
The common causes of misunderstandings are the difference in prices between one shop and another, the different brands and how customers are treated when they return goods.
Returning goods gone bad
A spaza shop owner in Extension 5, Themba Allen Ngcelwane says, "It’s rare for customers to bring goods back but when it happens, I accept them. I even encourage customers to return goods should they not be happy. It’s not a loss to me as I return the goods to my supplier anyway."
Noludwe Mafani, a shop assistant at NU shop in Joza, said, "I don’t take food items back. Things like bread, vegetables and meat are sensitive so I cannot take that risk. Also if someone brings back something and the packaging is either dirty or spoilt, I do not take that back as no one else will want it."
Shop assistant Ishmael Jalasi said they take goods back and also give refunds should customers want their money back.
Buyiselwa September, a customer said, "When returning goods one is not treated professionally and to top it all, they expect you to come back to support them."
Siphokazi Yoli a resident at Joza said, "I don’t normally buy from spaza shops because items like vegetable and fruit are not always fresh. Chicken livers tend to be off and the cooking oil they sell has a funny smell."
Ngcelwane on the other hand said, "I always look out for the needs of my customers so that I give them what they need. I also treat my customers with respect because if I upset my customers, it will be a loss to me as they won’t come back."
He said, "Experience is the best method in this kind of business, one needs to always provide the consumer with the basics. I cannot afford to keep turning customers away."
Spaza’s daily bread: freshness guaranteed
All the owners of the spaza shops that were consulted say they get bread delivered each and every morning to ensure that it is fresh.
Ngcelwane said, "In the past I used to give leftover bread to Fort England hospital as my wife is a sister there. Nowadays though, I order bread so that I do not get any leftovers and if I still have a loaf or two at the end of business, I give them to the guy who helps me with the garden."
Jalasi on the other hand said, "I get bread every day and if there is any left over, I tell my customers that it is from the previous day. Also, the bread has expiry dates on it so that helps as bread takes about three days to expire."
Masixole Ntshiba, a spaza shop assistant at Qete Restaurant, said they operate differently from the other spaza shops.
"The business caters for braais so we only buy bread on Fridays and it gets finished over the weekend, during the week there is no bread sold. If customers come and look for bread during the week, I send them next door as I know they always have bread," he said.
Some customers are not happy with the availability of products. Pule Kgoe, a customer says, "The spaza shops have limited stock on some products. There’s a shop here that has a sign of a restaurant and when I went to check, they do not have any cooked food so I ended up buying a small packet of peanuts."