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Spaza shops stay strong

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Big, small retail contribute to booming township rental market

Spaza shops are fighting a tough battle for survival as townships become hubs for major commercial property development. But not all shop owners fear the opposition.

The spazas, run from homes or space rented from township property owners, must compete with shopping malls in townships and rural areas that have grown since 1994 to cover almost 300000m².

But traditional spazas still contribute greatly to the property industry – particularly the booming rental market, says Fernando Antonio, who launched the country’s first township property portal

Property owners earn monthly rents, says Antonio. “Large commercial property ventures and small informal businesses are proof there is room for small and big players to cash in on the township market.”

Those operating spazas supplement the owners’ family income. They succeed because they are usually in residential areas, and so are easily accessible. And convenient location of commercial property ventures remains vital to retail success, says Chad Shapiro, head of CTS Properties.

Khosi Liwani’s father supported their family with his 150m² spaza shop in Nyanga. Liwani has lived in Nyanga all her life within walking distance of the spaza shop that today is the successful Ndwamba Market.

When her father died in 1995, Liwani, then 22, gave up studying at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and took over the business.

“I grew up in the retail business; I knew what to do,” she says.

Now 47, she still runs her market on the original site on the corner of Emms Drive and Sithathu Avenue.

Today her shop is better able to compete with the mushrooming malls springing up around, thanks to a Western Cape government and Pick ‘* ’ Pay initiative to assist spazas modernise. (See more, right)

Ndwamba Market is just a block from the Nyanga Interchange and taxi rank and is near schools and a church. Customers range from shack owners to business people.

“It’s been here since I was born; that indicates we’re in the right spot; you cannot go wrong here.”

About 1km away two shopping malls have popped up – Gugulethu Square, with a Superspar and a Clicks Pharmacy, also the new R500million Junxion Mall in Philippi, which is near a Shoprite.

But the competition is not a problem for Liwani. “The service offered by a self-run business differs greatly from that offered by shop managers,” she says.

A taxi may be needed to get to the malls while Ndwamba Market is on residents’ doorsteps. – Additional reporting by Vivian Warby