Sho­prite ex­pands into Mokhot­long

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

THE first day of De­cem­ber 2016 will for­ever be etched in the me­mories of many Mokhot­long res­i­dents af­ter their shop­ping co­nun­drum was re­solved with the launch of a Sho­prite su­per­mar­ket in the re­mote and moun­tain­ous district.

Most Mokhot­long res­i­dents have over the years con­tended with trav­el­ling long dis­tances out­side the coun­try or the district for a de­cent shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. This was be­cause most of the nearby shops pro­vided a lim­ited prod­uct range with ques­tion­able qual­ity and at high costs.

Ad­dress­ing guests dur­ing a colour­ful launch cer­e­mony, Sho­prite Re­gional Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Pitso Me­lao said the su­per­mar­ket chain would pro­vide the Mokhot­long com­mu­nity a range of prod­ucts and ser­vices as well as cre­at­ing jobs for at least 40 lo­cals.

Hav­ing started op­er­a­tions in Le­sotho in 1997, the Sho­prite Group has seven out­lets in Maseru, one in Berea, Mafeteng, two in Leribe and one in Butha-buthe cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion af­ter be­ing gut­ted by fire.

Mr Me­lao said they de­cided to open shop in the high­land district to serve the res­i­dents of Mokhot­long and to tap into the eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the area due to min­ing op­er­a­tions and the forth­com­ing sec­ond phase of the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project. The project will re­sult in the con­struc­tion of Poli­hali Dam.

“Sho­prite is work­ing hard to en­sure it grabs all the avail­able op­por­tu­ni­ties wher­ever we are oper­a­tional. So, Mokhot­long was iden­ti­fied as an op­tion af­ter we con­sid­ered what was likely to hap­pen in the next four years in the district,” he said.

“Re­mem­ber Mokhot­long is a min­ing district with two min­ing op­er­a­tions, and re­cently more mines were also launched. Other than that there is go­ing to be con­struc­tion of a large dam (Poli­hali) in Mokhot­long, which also means a huge op­por­tu­nity for us.

“These projects will re­sult in the em­ploy­ment of more than a thou­sand peo­ple who will re­side in the district.”

The de­ci­sion, Mr Me­lao said, was also in re­sponse to a clam­our by Mokhot­long res­i­dents to en­joy the ben­e­fits their low­land coun­ter­parts were get­ting of Sho­prite out­lets.

“There were calls from res­i­dents and au­thor­i­ties in the area for us to bring Sho­prite to Mokhot­long. So we are also serv­ing a need to the peo­ple of Mokhot­long. It is a win-win sit­u­a­tion for both us and the peo­ple,” he said, adding they would charge nor­mal Sho­prite prices in Mokhot­long to en­sure par­ity across the coun­try.

“We have found a strat­egy that will al­low us to charge the same prices for our prod­ucts and ser­vices as those found in other shops around the coun­try.”

Mr Me­lao also said they would em­power the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in line with their oper­a­tional creed.

“When in­vest­ing in any area, we be­lieve in em­pow­er­ing the lo­cal peo­ple so the com­mu­nity can sup­port our op­er­a­tions.”

Go­ing for­ward, he said they were con­sid­er­ing bring­ing other Sho­prite group brands such as Medirite, Hun­gry Lion, OK Fur­ni­tures and Liqour­shop to Mokhot­long.

Mokhot­long Prin­ci­pal Chief Mathealira Seeiso told the Le­sotho Times on the side­lines of the launch, Sho­prite’s ar­rival was a game-changer.

“This is a water­shed mo­ment for the peo­ple of Mokhot­long. For over 40 years, we could only ac­cess this kind of shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and dur­ing those days it was a two-day trip,” he said.

“On the first day, we would travel to the Sani Pass Border Gate where, be­cause of the long dis­tance, chances were high we would find the border closed for the night. So, we had to wait for the fol­low­ing day to cross to the other side to travel to Pietermaritzburg.”

Added Chief Seeiso: “By set­ting up shop here to Mokhot­long, Sho­prite is re­spond­ing to a se­ri­ous need that we had for a long time. This will be the first time that the peo­ple of Mokhot­long will be able to en­joy high qual­ity prod­ucts and ser­vices in the com­fort of their district with­out hav­ing to travel long dis­tances.”

“I also like the em­ploy­ment cre­ation com­po­nent Sho­prite has brought with the new su­per­mar­ket. I am very happy with their pres­ence here in Mokhot­long.”

Mokhot­long District Ad­min­is­tra­tor, Molefe Mpesi, who of­fi­ci­ated dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony, said Sho­prite had brought shop­ping con­ve­nience to the peo­ple of Mokhot­long who had been long­ing for fresh and qual­ity prod­ucts.

“The peo­ple of­ten had no choice but to buy ex­pired prod­ucts. But the ar­rival of Sho­prite with its guar­an­teed fresh prod­ucts, es­pe­cially food, will en­able them to buy foods of their choice,” he said.

“Most deal­ers here nor­mally limit their stocks to the ba­sic stuff such as matches, salt and sugar see­ing that we are a moun­tain peo­ple.

“But in the Sho­prite su­per­mar­ket, there is a wide va­ri­ety of prod­ucts and the shelves are full. The avail­abil­ity of prod­ucts cre­ates its own de­mand but un­avail­abil­ity sim­i­larly de­flates de­mand.”

Mr Mpesi ex­pressed con­fi­dence the peo­ple of Mokhot­long would sup­port the su­per­mar- ket even though it was sit­u­ated in a re­mote area.

“Be­ing pre­dom­i­nantly sheep and goats farm­ers, the peo­ple ba­si­cally have the econ­omy of Mokhot­long in the palms of their hands. So I am con­fi­dent they have the means to sup­port the pro­longed op­er­a­tion of Sho­prite in this district.”

He also urged the res­i­dents of Mokhot­long, pop­u­larly known as Liphamola, to jeal­ously safe­guard the su­per­mar­ket from any crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties as it had come to ad­dress their long-term re­tail needs.

One of the su­per­mar­ket’s first cus­tomers, Thato ‘Mopa, said she was im­pressed by the wide range of prod­ucts Sho­prite of­fered, par­tic­u­larly fresh foods.

“Food qual­ity and fresh­ness is a ma­jor con­cern for us cus­tomers. You will no­tice that most re­tail shops here are op­er­ated by Chi­nese busi­ness­peo­ple who some­times don’t sell fresh foods,” she said.

“I am there­fore very happy that Sho­prite has come to Mokhot­long be­cause I see it has a wide range of fresh foods.”

Ms ‘Mopa was also im­pressed with the pric­ing, which she noted was markedly lower than what other out­lets were charg­ing.

“I was pleas­antly sur­prised to see that they are charg­ing nor­mal Sho­prite prices which are lower than what their com­peti­tors are charg­ing here,” she said.

“I feared that they would in­crease their prices due to this place be­ing very re­mote but that is not the case.

“While some ex­ist­ing deal­ers could pro­vide some qual­ity prod­ucts, their prices were of­ten ridicu­lously in­flated, and that would force many to set­tle for more generic and cheaper stuff.”

Another shop­per, Tiisetso Duma, said the avail­ably of fresh foods brought by Sho­prite would en­sure the res­i­dents of Mokhot­long were healthy and there­fore able to pro­duc­tively con­trib­ute to the district’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Mokhot­long DA Molefe Mpesi and Sho­prite Re­gional Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Pitso Me­lao cut the rib­bon to of­fi­cially open the su­per­mar­ket.

MR Me­lao hands over the keys of the store to the Sho­prite Mokhot­long man­age­ment team.

Sho­prite also do­nated M5000 to Touch­ing Tiny Lives on its open­ing day.

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