Hustling: Why supermarket owners should not sit pretty

A trader hawks ripe bananas at Daraja Mbili market in Kisii County on August 28, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Supermarkets are the place of choice to spend money. It amazes me how we are orderly and happy spending our money there.

It's in supermarkets that the diversity of the Kenyan nation comes out. Every tribe, gender, age and nationality is represented in the supermarkets.

And they co-exist peacefully. One wishes such co-existence is found in the workplace, where money is made but not as easily as spending it.

The size of the trolley, its fullness and its contents betray your social economic class. Next time you are in a supermarket, watch the customers. You can use the phone later. Curiously, cashiers do not reflect Kenyan diversity, at least in colour.

Contrast supermarkets with hawking, where a single person does the display, advertise, sell, package and give after-sale service!

The display mesmerises me. As you move from Western Kenya all the way to West Africa, merchandise is displayed on sellers' heads.

The rest is held in the hands or carried on the back. Check hawkers or hustlers in your neighbourhood. Does this display have an effect on sales just like in the supermarket, where eye level matters?

Items on the bottom shelves get less attention compared to those at eye level. That's why salt or milk can be at the bottom, compared with perfume. The display of items in the supermarkets is not random.

How hustlers carry and display their merchandise tells much about their social and cultural background. Who sells mukombero (white's ginger)?

Who sells tiger nuts (in Ghana), do women and men sell the same items? And out of curiosity, why do some items get to hawkers before supermarkets?

Are hawkers hired to do test marketing? Do hawkers or hustlers have a better sense of customer needs than modern supermarkets despite their vast databases?

Whether you are a hawker or supermarket, the objective is to make a sale, and money. Convincing someone to buy something is not easy.

You have to factor in their needs, socio-economic status and at times empathy. The way the seller presents themselves also matters.

The supermarkets, hawkers, shops, and kiosks in between care for different market segments. Studying these markets and their players is fascinating. It's more than money. I have just chosen the extremes of the continuum. Are you a hawker or hustler? Tell us how you rival the supermarket.