Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
The economic developments in Zimbabwe have spawned a new breed of entrepreneurs, across all sectors of the economy. Some have achieved success overnight, while some continue to work on entrepreneurial strategies to ensure that they put food on the table for their families.
And in settings of increased inequality, where rising prosperity for some spells penury for others, grocery clubs are among survival tactics that have found favour in most Zimbabwe homes.
Contributions for these grocery clubs, which are not determined by one’s social standings but pocket size start from as little as $1 per day each week to between $25 and $50 a month.
“Each member contributes $30 every month towards the bulk purchase of basic goods that are needed in every home.
“We share the groceries every six months. This has proved to be cheaper, more effective way of putting food on the table for most women,” said Ms Caroline Watega chairperson of a Glen View-based grocery saving clubs known as Mom’s Dinner Table.
Ms Watega added that the club also serves as mentoring platform on how to come up with startups that do not require much money and experience in any field.
“The club also provide platforms for aspiration, offer guidance on how to venture into informal business and the market opportunities that are available within the group and outside,” she said.
Grocery clubs are usually made up of individuals and families who merge their grocery lists to buy food in good quantities at wholesalers to be shared at an interval.
The grocery list is usually determined by different individual needs which are then rationalised to ensure that everyone’s expectations are catered for.
The grocery clubs are common phenomenon in both the lower and middle class groups and have successfully bridged social divisions. Whether they are formed in the environs of Highfield or some sections of Ballatyne Park, they include those who have enjoy a discernible measure of economic success, while enabling those not so economically stable to retain their dignity.
A cross border trader Tariro Mhizha of Mufakose has a wide savings profile. Like many women of her status and means, she belongs to a number of savings clubs including one for groceries.
“They are three of them, but each runs under different names and have got different aims and varying levels of financial commitment,” she said.
One of the savings groups she belongs to, La Vista is made up of female executives and spouses of businessmen, who contribute $ 1000 every month.
She concedes that while it is financially straining her, the group has upgraded her social standing and enhanced her social and financial connections by giving her access to a class of women she would not otherwise associate with in her daily life.
The positive spin offs of the grocery clubs are not only enjoyed by group members but they also cascade to extended families, who benefit as much if not more, when they receive some of the groceries at times like Christmas.
Apart from ensuring that members are assured of a good meal everyday through the financial contributions they would have made, grocery clubs are being woven together into new fabrics of intensified solidarity among women.
A Harare grocery club called Women of Style Stockvel which made up of professional women has since expanded its activities to cover several social activities including hosting birthday parties for its members.
“The group has brought us together as professional women. Usually we don’t have time to hang out because of our busy schedules. It creates the much needed space for us to share ideas and relax.
“The benefits of buying in bulk are unmatched. You get value for money and you never run out of supplies during the six-month waiting period,” said Rose one of the members of the group.
Executive director of the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, Ms Rosemary Siyachitema said the consumer action clubs formed in the early 2000 ensure that families enjoy economies of sales, by encouraging bulky purchases.
“Although we are yet to carry out studies on the consumer action clubs, information that is coming to our offices show that they are effectively sustaining a lot of households, because members save, through bulky purchases.
“The money that members save can be channelled elsewhere, and that alone is crucial especially during this time when disposables incomes for many are shrinking,” she said
Owing to the growing popularity of grocery clubs which have become a fad associated with women in the last few years, retail shops and wholesalers concede that these clubs give them good businesses throughout the year, especially during month ends.
“Women usually come here every month in groups to buy their bulky groceries. In cases where the orders are huge, we even provide them with transport as part of our customer care service. Women are our biggest customers for most of the commodities that we sell,” said a credit controller from one of the big wholesalers in the central business district.
Globally women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined-in fact more than twice as big.