Festive is a mere season

Traders often ignore low-paying old customers for temporary ones spending big

In Summary

• Christmas sales are crucial, but one must strike balance with customer service

Kwale residents and children celebrate festive season in Diani, Msambweni subcounty
Kwale residents and children celebrate festive season in Diani, Msambweni subcounty

“Maembe ni ya msimu, usidharau nazi.” This is a Swahili proverb that means, “Mangoes are sweet but seasonal, don’t disrespect the coconut.”

The deeper meaning of the proverb is to not pay excessive attention to temporary happiness while ignoring the people who were with you regardless of circumstances. It is a proverb that should speak to lots of businesses that scrambled to pander to the whims of big-spending visitors during the festive season, ignoring the small-scale customers who kept the business going all year.

The typical chapati and beans, ugali with plain vegetables restaurant-goers, were ignored for big spenders munching on chicken, beef stew and fish. In bars, regular customers, who typically order a couple of bottles, found themselves at the periphery as waiters paid more attention to high-spenders. At dressmaking shops, the low-paying customer going for a minor repair job was rudely brushed aside for the family taking out measurements for matching outfits.

For the first time since 2019, Kenya had a Christmas holiday season free from tough measures imposed in 2020 to control the spread of Covid-19. One would think that a two-year dry spell would make the business community appreciate the loyal customers who stuck with them through the lean times, but, as it would seem, old habits die hard.

On the other hand, who would blame the tailor for ignoring a Sh100 repair job to concentrate his energy on an order worth Sh10,000? How often in a year does a tailor get such a huge order? Can the bar staff be blamed for rushing to please a customer who is spending in one day the equivalent of an entire week’s sales during normal times?

Christmas sales are very important to the retail industry. Even for large businesses, the last two months of the year can contribute as much as 40 per cent of the entire year’s sales. However, there is a need to balance between exploiting the festive season with taking care of the customers who keep the business afloat throughout the year.

One way of ensuring all your customers get the attention they deserve is by getting extra staff during the festive season. In an environment where there are many job seekers, it is not difficult to get someone to help out for just a few days. Besides, anyone looking for a job would appreciate the income, so they, too, can have money to spend like everybody else.

Many types of businesses benefit from temporary workers during periods of high demand. These include bars, hotels, hairdressing salons, barber shops, cafes and motor vehicle garages. It is worth remembering that temporary staff come with risks, such as poor customer service and theft of employer cash or property.

The risks of temporary employees demand that the business owner engages only with individuals with good recommendations from previous employers. Even then, temporary staff should be closely supervised to ensure they achieve satisfactory performance.