That the country’s economy is on the upward trend is not in doubt going by consumer trends. Unlike a few years ago when consumers did not pay attention to where they shopped and what quality of goods they bought, Kenyan consumers are now shunning local kiosks in favour of established retailers including supermarkets, shopping malls and departmental stores. This change can be attributed to the government’s effort to formalize the economy. This has led to Kenyan buyers going for branded goods instead of re-packaged and counterfeit goods.

Apart from the government’s effort to formalize the economy, the changing shopping trend by consumers is also attributed to several other factors one of which is increased Internet penetration. Kenyans rank among some of the most tech savvy not only in East Africa region but also in Africa in general. Increased Internet penetration has made it possible for a good number of buyers to engage in online shopping of which several local banks have created avenues through which buyers pay for their online purchases.

According to data released by Central Bank of Kenya at the beginning of the year, the number of Kenyan consumers using credit/debit cards has increased two-fold in the period between January 2014 and December 2014 with value of transactions increasing by 74% to over $11 billion from $6.7 billion worth of transactions in the period between January 2013 and December 2013.

The other reason for the change in Kenyans’ shopping trend is increased use of mobile phones in transferring money. Many consumers have embraced use of mobile money transfer methods offered by the three main telecommunications in the country. Indeed Central Bank of Kenya reports that buyers transacted over $17 billion through their mobile phones in the period between January 2014 and December 2014 compared to $13 mobile phone transactions recorded in the period between January 2013 and December 2013.

It must be appreciated that devolution brought about by enactment of Kenya’s new constitution has literally put money in pockets of Kenyan consumers. Unlike in the past when government tenders were a preserve of national government, county governments now award tenders at the local level with all the money remaining circulating at the county level. National government programs that target youth and women have also made it possible for youth and women to secure government tenders that were hitherto a preserve of well-connected wealthy individuals. These efforts have financially empowered Kenyan consumers.

Kenyan consumers’ buying trend will certainly continue to change over the next few years as more consumers become financially empowered through various programs and increased growth of the economy. A number of foreign retailers have indeed projected this and it is not surprising that such retailers as South African Massmart, Spanish’s clothing giant Zara and British shoe retailer Clarks have started their operations in Kenya.

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