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UNFATHOMABLE MISERY

Mitumba traders tell of heavy losses since Covid-19

Some sit forlornly, wondering where to get money for their next meal

In Summary

• Reduced demand has forced traders to slash prices, with some resorting to hawking in the market, desperately looking for customers.

• Most of their customers have no need for new clothes and shoes as there are no ceremonies requiring that one stands out in the crowd.

 

Secondhand clothes sold at the market.
Secondhand clothes sold at the market.
Image: FILE

Leah Karimi is happy - to some extent - that she is single in these times of Covid-19. She has only herself to feed.

Her main worry is how to get money for rent.

The 27-year-old woman is one of the many traders counting massive losses since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country nearly three months ago.

 
 
 
 

Karimi has a ‘kibanda’ at Toi market in Adam's Arcade where she sells gym attire and basic camera accessories. Each of the latter items goes for Sh200-Sh300 depending on the quality. 

Before Covid-19, she used to take home an average of Sh15,000 per day. Today, she hardly makes Sh1,000, which she spends on basic needs and bus fare to her Dandora home.

While Karimi's situation is no better than that of other traders, she sympathises with those with large families to support.

Pre-Covid-19, customers used to frequent Toi market in the afternoons and during rush hours. Now traders close at 4pm to beat the dusk-to-dawn curfew. There are hardly any customers at that hour.

Most customers are at home. They have no urgency to buy new clothes and shoes as there are no ceremonies requiring that one stands out in the crowd. And this is bad news for business.

Reduced demand has forced traders to slash prices. Some have resorted to hawking in the market, desperately looking for customers.  More often than not, they get no response.

But they do not lose hope and apply whatever marketing strategy to draw attention to their merchandise. Today, luck may smile at them - may be.

 

Those unfortunate not to sell any item sit forlornly, wondering where to get money for their next meal and bus fare. 

A trader, who chose not to be named, told the Star he at times walks from Adam's to his abode in Kayole when he cannot afford the Sh250 bus fare.

Regardless of the circumstances, the traders are at the market from as early as 9am, praying for a busy and productive day.

Toi market is reputed for high-quality secondhand clothes and shoes, utensils and suitcases. The vendors get their stocks from Gikomba and Mombasa.

Dominic Kyallo specialises on official and casual trousers for women. Normally, his price range is Sh500 -Sh800 apiece. Currently he counts himself lucky if he gets a customer willing to part with Sh300 for a similar item.

“On a good business day, I would take home close to Sh30,000. Now I get at most Sh2,700. Weekends are a little bit productive. On average, I would sell 10 pairs of trousers,” Kyallo said.

He has tried doing business online - social media platforms like Facebook - without much success. He blames Covid-19 for the slump in his line of business.

Shoe trader Felix Kitheka told the Star: “Covid-19 has finished our businesses. All our savings are gone. We have reduced our prices to an amount that does not make sense because our customers too do not have money.”

Kitheka said some colleagues have moved to the central business district where it is possible to sell one or two items. 

He says he has loyal customers who have been with him for the past 15 years. But they are not as frequent as before since they too are also hard hit by the Covid-19 economic downturn.

He is optimistic after President Uhuru Kenyatta's May 23 address to the nation raising the probability of a likely resumption of normal business.  

The President unveiled Sh53.7 billion plans to help businesses and Kenyans survive the economic storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

- mwaniki fm