From shop to stall: a study of exhibition centres as retail outlets in Nairobi's Central Business District
The focus of this study was on the emerging retail premises called Exhibition Centres. The general objective of the research was to study the emergence and the development of the Exhibition Centre as a retail premise in the Nairobi Central Business District. The specific objectives of the study were to establish the factors responsible for the emergence of the Exhibition Centres and the socio-economic characteristics of the stall operators. It also sought to highlight the organization and performance of the stall businesses as well as document the constraints that encumber their operations. This was an exploratory survey research aimed at generating information on these relatively new retailing premises in the city of Nairobi. The survey design was cross-sectional; meaning that data on a cross-section of respondents randomly chosen to represent the larger population was gathered at a given point in time. Data was collected from stall operators within the Nairobi Central Business District mainly by use of questionnaires. A total of 54 Exhibition Centres were randomly selected for the study from which 108 stall operators (two from each centre) were randomly selected and interviewed. Additional qualitative information was collected through Key Informant Interviews as well as through observations. Findings from this study indicate that Exhibition Centres emerged after the liberalization of the Kenyan economy in the early 1990's which led to the entry of many goods from foreign countries. There were Exhibition Shows held in the city in which goods from countries such as Iran, China, Pakistan and others were exhibited. With time, these exhibitors rented spaces in buildings in the Nairobi Central Business District and called them Exhibition Centres. Results obtained from this study further indicate that on average, the stall operator is 36 years old, is married and makes sales well over Kshs.30, 000 per month. Majority of the stalls, (74%) are owned by women and over 80% are owner managed sole proprietorships. It also emerged that stalls are well managed and most (70%) of them are well served with water, toilets, electricity and security. It was found that Exhibition Centres have created employment for many people with each stall being manned by two people on average. Among the key challenges facing stall operators are high rents and goodwill charges, competition and high cost of doing business. However, the respondents hailed Exhibition Centres as a means through which small scale traders have been able to access the CBD location, where most customers are to be found. The study recommends the building of more subsidized stalls especially by the city council as a way of facilitating the small scale entrepreneur and even the hawker access the CBD which remains the best location that provides a ready source of customers because of high human traffic. It further recommends that more research be done aimed at finding out ways of facilitating more of the small scale entrepreneurs to access the CBD location such as allowing them to trade in the CBD on certain days of the week and times of day. It also calls on the authorities to reduce the cost of doing business in Kenya and more specifically to control the payment of goodwill for renting Stalls in the CBD.