Codelia Mondela/Sylvester Chiramba, Chronicle Reporters
CONSUMERS have accused retailers of colluding to hike prices of basic commodities without justification as the same commodities are available from vendors at up to half the prices in shops.
Prices of some basic commodities have increased by up to 100 percent in the last two months.
On Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said retailers should desist from wantonly increasing prices of basic commodities.
Consumers in Bulawayo yesterday demanded to know why vendors, who source commodities from retailers mainly in South Africa, are able to sell at significantly lower prices than retailers who get foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to import the same commodities that they buy from wholesalers.
“The unwritten rule now is that do not buy anything from shops that you can buy from vendors because you will be ripped off,” said Mrs Thokozile Dlodlo.
She said it was mind boggling that vendors who were selling goods brought into the country by cross border traders who bought the commodities mainly from retail shops in South Africa, were selling commodities for prices much lower compared to prices in the shops.
“These cross border traders buy forex on the black market but still their prices remain low compared to those charged by retailers which means retailers are profiteering,” said Mrs Dlodlo.
The Chronicle carried out a snap survey on the streets of Bulawayo where vendors are making a killing and discovered retailers were charging more than vendors.
A 2kg packet of Sunlight washing powder costs between $7 and $9,20 from the shops while vendors sell it for $4. Green bar washing soap is sold for $1,30 by vendors but is selling for $1,59 in retail shops.
Most shops are running Christmas specials but their prices are still higher.
Nivea roll-on is $2,50 from vendors while in retail shops it is selling for $5,29.
Prices of tissue paper have increased in the shops. Baby Soft tissue rolls (nines) are being sold by vendors for $6 but in retail shops are sold for $13, 90.
Nivea lotion for men is selling for $7,99 in retail shops yet vendors are selling it for $5.
The price of 2 litres cooking oil from local supermarkets is $4,48 and vendors are charging $4. Colgate toothpaste is $1,25 from the vendors while at the shops it is $1,59.
The only challenge is that most vendors are demanding cash while supermarkets whose prices are much higher accept EcoCash and bank cards.
A vendor who asked not to be named said business was good because their prices were very low compared to those of retail outlets.
An accounting student from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) who refused to be named, said retailers’ argument was that vendors do not pay taxes, rentals and other costs such as electricity and water billls as well as salaries.
“That argument does not hold water. What taxes are they talking about? Sales tax is paid by the consumer at the till,” said the student.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) regional officer for Matabeleland, Mr Comfort Muchekeza, said retailers were hiking prices willy-nilly taking advantage of the fact that there are no price controls.
He said businesses should upohold ethics and stop profiteering through unwarranted price increases.
President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Mr Denford Mutashu blamed manufacturers for the price hikes.
“As retailers we have no choice but to pass on the burden to the consumers. Supermarkets are suffering from cash shortages because they have embraced the use of plastic money. If you are using plastic money manufacturers do not give you a discount,” he said.
“Retailers buy from the local manufacturers unlike vendors who can sneak into South Africa and buy commodities at cheaper prices.”
Commenting on the bread price increase effected yesterday, Mr Mutashu said the price of flour had not increased since 2008 so it was only the bakeries increasing prices.
He said vendors’ prices were lower than those of supermarkets because vendors do not pay taxes.