Most people who are familiar with the commercial city of Onitsha did not see the business sense in citing a shopping mall in the city. Onitsha is the home of many markets. It has markets for specific consumer goods like electronics, fruits, plastics etc. Of course, there is Onitsha Main Market which is reputed to be the largest market in Nigeria and the busiest market in West Africa. Onitsha Main Market caters to a wide range of products and services. The markets, of course, offer cheaper prices than Shoprite.
The big doors of Shoprite Mall, Onitsha were thrown open to shoppers on the 14th of April, 2016. The media reported that residents of the commercial city snubbed the well-publicized event. Four months later, the reports were still the same. On Sunday, the 4th of September, 2016, on one of my visits to my family living in the city, I stopped at the mall to pick a few groceries. I met a rude surprise when I arrived there. The parking lot was full. Drivers circled the lot hoping to occupy the parking lot of departing shoppers. Children were having the time of their lives at the game stands while parents and guardians cheered on. Inside the mall was filled to the brim. There were amazingly long queues at the check-out counters. On three different occasions, I had to untangle myself from the carts of shoppers because the place was totally congested. Of course, the permanent fixtures at every Shoprite mall, the photo freaks were in every corner doing what they love. Did I forget to mention that all the ATMS were out of cash? Well, they were. The eateries were full too. It was maddening and quite the experience. After nearly thirty minutes of standing in a queue that didn’t seem to be moving at all, I finally paid for my supplies and left. All I could think of as I left the premises was that if this is how residents of Onitsha snub Shoprite, I wonder what would happen when they pay attention.
Finally, Onitsha is the home of Omata Businessmen who do not joke with business so expecting the mall to be full on weekdays may be asking for too much. But they can spend money too because they love to show off. What better day to do that than on a Sunday when markets are closed? What better place to do that than at Shoprite which offers a different environment from the bars? If Shoprite continues to see the kind of action I witnessed on Sunday every weekend, (and I was reliably informed by friends and family in the city that it does) then it’ll be in business for a long time.