Partitioning of shops takes center stage in Gweru

The Chronicle

Patrick Chitumba, Head of Midlands Office

The partitioning of shops by owners has led to the increase in the number of retail players in Gweru.

Moving glass walls not only bring convenience and flexibility to retailers, but also attract customers to stores.

Gweru town is rapidly becoming the town of partitioned shops, with glass partitioning taking center stage.

Private properties in Gweru are subdivided and the owners pocket far more than what they pay monthly to the local authority.

The council loses building plan fees, business license fees and penalties due to the owners’ failure to regularize the partitions.

The council has only received six applications for glass partitioning and has approved four, but most shops in the central business district (CBD) are being partitioned.

Most shops and malls operate unlicensed due to unapproved partitioning of stores.

The former Blantyre store on Second Street, Lilian Fashions along Main Street and even Zesa’s offices along Sixth Street have been cordoned off.

The former Rainbow Movie Theater along Fifth Street was also partitioned off.

In addition to this, there is an increase in strip malls in which stores are arranged in a row, with a sidewalk in front.

These have been developed as a unit and have large parking lots in front along Second Street.

Shoppers have now become accustomed to glass partitioning, as evidenced by the way they frequent stores with each passing day.

Mini-shops created legally or illegally by store owners are becoming popular destinations for shoppers as they are easily preferred shopping areas as they cater to a variety of budgets.

In glass partitions, an assortment of products are sold by different traders, which makes it easy to compare prices.

In these stores we can find boutiques, salons, clothing materials, electrical appliances, furniture, building materials, bedding, mobile phones and accessories, spare parts, clothing, among others .

The goods found in malls come mainly from South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Dubai and China.

Rentals in such malls are however expensive according to tenants.

Tenants said rents vary between US$100 and US$250 per person, with some saying rents can reach 500 USD per person per month.

“A movable glass wall, which can be quickly opened and closed, removes all barriers between the walkway or mall and the store,” said one owner, Mr Mike Ncube of Gweru.

In his shop at Mkoba 6 shopping centre, Mr Ncube succeeded in creating 10 glazed partitions which accommodate 10 brands.

“I used to run this specialty grocery shop but after the Covid-19 pandemic when business was at its lowest I almost went bankrupt. I visited Harare where I seeing that the glass partitions were the novelty,” Mr. Ncube said.

He said when he returned he then split his store and was now collecting rent from 10 retailers, which proved to be a good business move.

In a CBD building there are 20 different people looking after different goods and services and yet the toilets and ventilation have never been improved.

“There are 20 of us with different professions in a way. Each of us can have three to four clients at a time and the challenges will come when it gets stifling. Ventilation has not been improved. Same for sanitary facilities,” said a tenant on condition of anonymity.

Gweru Town Public Relations Officer Ms Vimbai Chingwaramusee said there was nothing wrong with dividing buildings as long as council rules and regulations were followed.

“Most owners who have done this have requested a change of use which we have since approved. As a local authority we support this decision as it is a good way to accommodate small and medium sized businesses which have become the most popular and common type of business. We are also working on building structures that can accommodate small stores,” she said.

Ms Chingwaramusee said the council carries out periodic health and fire inspections to ensure World Health Organization (WHO) regulations are being followed as well as fire prevention standards.

“So far, six stores have applied for segregation and four have been approved. We are still looking at the other apps,” she said.

A store owner said there was no need to rent the whole 20m by 15m store to just one tenant when you could accommodate more tenants and make more money.

“We no longer need expensive department stores for tenants. Tenants now prefer small specialty shops that sell specific goods. These small shops actually meet the needs of the market. I applied to the board and they approved. There are 10 tenants paying $200 each per month,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Deputy Minister of Local Administration and Public Works, Marian Chombo

Deputy Minister of Local Government and Public Works Marian Chombo said landowners should seek approval from their respective local authorities.

She said that before approval, the municipality should inspect the property and give directions on how the subdivisions should be done.

About Octavia A. Dorr

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