As Nigeria pushes towards a virile digital economy, the informal retail sector, with billions of dollars investment, holds a crucial role in attaining this goal. However, a huge chunk of the market still operates the old fashioned inventory model, and the rigour in this process of restocking takes a huge toll on them.
To understand the unique health and safety implications of stocking an informal retail store, it’s important to highlight processes which occur on a typical market day for informal retailers. For a retailer in a city like Lagos, the struggle for transportation could be a bigger job than the shopping activities at the market. And after expending physical and mental energy in the hunt for the best stock prices at different distributor outlets, they are faced with the challenge of transporting the goods back to their retail stores. This usually comes with another load of trouble.
Majority of markets, especially in Lagos, attract exit fees. While trying to sort this out, a retailer is looking for a carrier to convey the goods to the bus stop, and in doing so, must also be as vigilant as possible to ensure a thief or market hoodlum is not approaching in the form of a “carrier’. “Retailers have recounted their pain points caused from the drudgery of market visits and haggling to attribute to their status as regulars at health centres and pharmacies. For them, most of their medical issues pointed to immense stress in their daily life,” said Alerzo CEO, Adewale Opaleye.
The last three years have seen the rise of B2B e-commerce platforms like Alerzo, TradeDepot, Omnibiz and others springing up to bridge the online service gap for the informal retail market. Opaleye created Alerzo, after seeing the challenges his mother, an informal retailer, went through. He said Alerzo in the last two years is alleviating health and safety issues for retailers on the platform.
“70% of our retailers previously restocked 2-3 times a week while 14% restocked more than 4 times per week. The market trips, as expounded, reasonably attributes to emotional, mental and physical strain. Digging deeper into their stressors, our findings show a combination of fatigue associated with the rigours of stocking their shops and taking care of their growing families,” he said.
With their activities, B2B platforms are eliminating the need for retailers to make frequent trips to central markets; the need to haggle incessantly; the need to pay fees to carriers and market authorities, and the need to foot transportation bills (within N500 to over N5,000).
Currently, the market is dominated by the tedious visit to the physical market. Bringing these informal retailers to the online shipping platform will no doubt go a long way in the drive for a robust digital economy and also be a major boost to the economy of the country. And e-commerce platforms appear ready to be the required connector and facilitator for thousands of retailers still outside the digital net.