Just a week to Christmas, traders lament that lull in the hamper business discourages them from continuing in the yearly ritual, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR
Hampers normally flood markets and shopping centres ahead of Christmas, particularly in the cities. Unfortunately, it is no longer so, as traders, due to the ugly experiences in previous years, are scared to venture into it again. They complain of low patronage, coupled with the fact that the return on investment is not encouraging.
Hampers are traditionally presented as gifts by individuals, groups and corporate organisations at Yuletide. However, a recent visit to markets and shopping malls in Lagos metropolis reveals that traders no longer see the hamper business as profitable. The trend was confirmed by FS investigation at Ogba, Apongbon, Oke Arin, Ikeja and Iponri markets, where traders disclosed that hampers had, in the past few years, been visited by low patronage. Virtually all the respondents attributed the trend to the prevailing poor economic situation in the country.
Traders count losses
Mrs Catherine Ogidan, a shop owner at Ogba Sunday Market, regretted investing in hampers in the last two years, adding that hardship greatly reduced people’s purchasing power, and that she would not like to make the same mistake this year.
She said, “Since 2019, I had been stocking no fewer than 100 hampers ahead of the Christmas and New Year. But I hardly sell up to 40, even after the Yuletide. So, it would be foolhardy for me to repeat the same mistake this year, as it is very obvious that the present state of the economy is worse than that of last year. In fact, low patronage of hampers has become a recurring nightmare to us since the last few years.”
Another trader, Mrs Adunni Adewale, said, “Many of my counterparts that invest in hampers every Christmas may not repeat past mistakes, even as I would not also want to make the same mistake. This is because investing in hampers business is tantamount to tying one’s capital down.”
Similarly, Mrs Esther Ibiyemi said, “Since I started venturing into the business of hampers, particularly since the past three years or thereabouts, I cannot boast of meaningful returns. In fact, there was a particular year that, after the Yuletide, we were compelled to unbundle the unsold hampers and consume them. So, it does not make sense venturing into the business any longer.”
She attributed the low patronage to the economic crunch in the country.
Corroborating her, Mr Alex Ifeduba, a shop owner at Apongbon Market, said, “The wobbly economic situation over the years greatly reduced the purchasing power of customers for hampers, and I highly regret investing in the business. I do not think I will invest in it this year.
“I could not sell 10 of the 45 hampers I stocked in my shop last year. It was disappointing that I have to unpackage them for display on the shelf. Many of my colleagues are contemplating not to invest in hampers this year, for the same reason.”
Not only are traders disenchanted in venturing into the hamper business, craftsmen that are involved in the production and sale of the baskets, plastic bowls and wooden boxes equally brood, as they lamented the low ROI of the business.
Drop in hamper quality
However, it has been observed that items stuffed in the hamper basket are getting lean, unlike before. Also, the dealers now stuff the baskets with papers and other fillers before putting the valuable items, to maximise profit.
On this, Edward Ademola said, “The continued parlous state of the economy has compelled dealers in hampers to be packaging lean items in baskets, and selling them off as hampers.”
He added that the lean nature of hampers these days made some corporate organisations and individuals to prepare their own hampers.
For those who have lost the essence of hampers, Evelyn Adegbenro explains, “Sharing of hampers during Yuletide is not just to engender goodwill, but to express appreciation for friendship and support received throughout the year among individuals, corporate entities and government.”
According to her, it is something most companies are set to do at the close of every year, but do not get the quality they want, as hamper dealers have begun to package lean and cheap products in the baskets.
She explained that such goodwill had been drastically affected by the economic recession in Nigeria, to the extent that most individuals and corporate organisations simply prefer to prepare hampers right in their offices, instead of patronising dealers. The situation was worse among government Ministries, Departments and Agencies that tried to hide under managing costs to save for more pressing economic needs. The few individuals and organisations that still indulge in the yearly ritual of sending hampers do so prudently, compared with the lavish gifts in the past.
Joseph Onuma, on the dwindling attractiveness of hampers, said, “Beside the contents shrinking dramatically, the prices of the hampers have more than doubled, which dealers always attribute to the high exchange and inflation rates.”
He explained that the high cost of items made prices of hampers to rise, leading to low patronage.
A popular hamper dealer in Iponri market, under anonymity, said, “Low patronage of hampers has been an issue each passing Yuletide in the last few years, and dealers have continued to experience low patronage compared to previous years because of the untold hardship in the economy.”
According to her, hampers that sold for N8,000 now sell for N16,000, adding that the retrogressive trend has been stable in recent years.
She lamented that since 2018 that there had never been any year she exhausted her stock of hampers, adding that in 2020, ostensibly due to the impact of the lockdown orchestrated by Coronavirus Disease, was the worst, as she barely sold up to 50 of the 200 she stocked.
Her words, “Even the companies that come to order as much as 50 at once hardly patronised me, and when they did, they only took four or six.”
In the same vein, Mrs Anthonia Osagie said, “I doubt if I will get myself involved in hamper business this year, as I don’t have money to tie down. What I experienced in the area of business in the previous years are enough lessons for me not to make the same mistake this year.”
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