Appliance retailing in Zimbabwe: a rare insight

By Patrick Avenell

VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE: There’s no doubt the last 18 months have been tough for Australian appliance retailers. Harvey Norman has experienced margin pressure, Clive Peeters was placed in receivership and even the high flying David Jones has been mired in scandal. Things could be worse, however, as found out when recently travelling through Zimbabwe.

At Victoria Falls, located at Zimbabwe’s border with Zambia, around 550 kilometres from the capital Harare, there is one electrical retail store, operated by Yasha, a young man who has survived famine, drought and civil war.

The big suppliers have yet to market the most recent technological developments to Zimbabwe, so Yasha persists in selling CRT TVs, VCRs and personal computers that look more at home in 1980s cinema. To make life even harder, Zimbabwe has no hard currency, so all transactions must be carried out in US Dollars. Inflation has destroyed the Zimbabwean economy, meaning Yasha must negotiate his prices in a currency only supported by the one foreign bank in the city.

The entrance to Victoria Falls Electrical Supplies.

Yasha, the lone salesman at the store.

Unlike Australian retail stores, which over exchanges and store credit, there's no place for unsatisfied customers in Zimbabwe.

An example of the some of the wares on sale. Notice the TV on the right is a Sony?

Patrick Avenell travelled through Zimbabwe between 6 and 10 June 2010.

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