Is There Any Hope For The Nigerian Hawkers?

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Is There Any Hope For The Nigerian Hawkers?


By: Salami Ajibola

The thought had never scraped a piece of my skin until I stumbled upon Coca Cola’s Hawker Light, a carrier with a harness for the beverage merchandiser. Simply,it’s a crate-like container, though with more depth and with straps that can be slung over the shoulders and belted around the waist.

It is another way of carrying the heavy merchandise,  easier than the traditional way that puts the neck under serious stress.

Even though I’m yet to confirm if this item is free for hawkers as is expected, I can’t help but think that this is an augury of a corporate social responsibility aimed at those who truly, and have for long deserved it; the under-appreciated marketers, the hawkers.

As a young boy of,say, eleven years old, who helped my father at his newsstand in CMS, Broad Street precisely, the first time The Punch newspaper gave us a large umbrella,rain coats, bags, all items that generally aided our sales, I thought, Wow, what generosity from these people!

This thought remained after two or three more of such gestures from other newspapers, until one day I followed the argument between my father and an agent for the wholesale chain of the business. “Why would Punch do such a thing? No more return of unsolds? Despite the fact that we undergo the most stress and they get the larger share of the money?”

This simply meant we, the retail link, no longer had the economic cushion of returning the unsold newspapers and thus now bore the loss. It’s direct impact on me was that every evening I had to auction any leftover The Punch newspapers, shouting my thin neck out just to reduce our loss.

The stress was one I really loathed, particularly on some bad days when the leftovers were many. But still, I saw a little luck in our situation, a little glimpse of enjoyment, when I compared it to the vendor who hawked his, who had been on the walk from morning, who must have precariously woven through traffic and yet still had to do more hawking to help his loss.

Not to flog a dead dog, the point is that, in the chain of product distribution, those who hawk are an important and indispensable link. They help put these products right under the nose of the buyers. They comb terrains the producers themselves can never dream of, reach consumers that maps can never see, and use antics the suit wearing marketing managers can never think of.

They are so zealous that they could nullify the role of the middlemen if possible. Yet, in the scheme of aid, when it comes to giving out to the lot who keep the businesses running, they seem to be overlooked.

Using beverage companies as an example, we can readily see companies’ touch of corporate social responsibility in the lives of wholesalers and retailers (those with shops). You can see large containers for depots, fridges and deep freezers in stores and shops, sign boards and neon signs, things that generally aid their sales. You can see souvenirs here and there to keep things in perspective and draw the buyers’ attention.

But hardly do you see any sales-aiding item with the hawkers.

You hardly, or never, see the Gala hawker with anything to hold his merchandise but a patch-patch carton propped on his arms, a carton that would soon give up the ghost.

You hardly, except some Fan milk cycler types, see a yogurt hawker but with a scrunched-up forehead from his devil of a carrier. You hardly see her, an Iya Ramota who hawks detergents and soaps, wear some nice-looking souvenirs since she is not coming directly from the companies. These lot are hardly reckoned with in the broader sense of things.

But, again, with Coca Cola’s Hawker Light that I just stumbled upon, I hope it is a clue of the goodies about to come the way of the hawkers who sell company products.

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