Prices of goods at the Accra Business District saw another jump as customers were left stranded following the strike action of Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) members – giving retailers and petty traders bargaining power over customers.
When the B&FT visited the ever-busy Makola Market in the afternoon of Wednesday, shops in the Makola shopping mall, SIC Life complex and other big wholesale shops were closed following GUTA’s protest of high inflation and cedi-depreciation – which members say have made doing business burdensome.
However, hawkers and retailers were busily doing business on the streets with patrons who couldn’t find their usual big wholesalers to buy from.
A trader by name Mercy Bilson, who trades in ladies’-wear in front of the Makola complex, said that for a long while the market has not been so good because buyers usually prefer to enter the big shops.
“We are very happy today; we wish they continue with their shop-closure till December because it will enable us to cash in more. Business has been good today, though we have few people in the market because of the shop-closure announcement,” she said.
She however further mentioned that the wholesalers have threatened to double their prices should government not do anything to address their concerns – a situation she fears will increase the plight and anxiety Ghanaians are going through.
Though the retailers and hawkers have taken advantage of the situation to turn their fortunes around, this did not come without implications for buyers. The situation has led to immediate inflation.
Some patrons in their interactions with the B&FT revealed that retailers have increased prices all of a sudden without any reasonable external influencing factors.
According to a lady who decided to speak on anonymity, she bought a shopping-bag from a hawker for GH¢10; and about two hours later when she needed additional one the same size, it was priced at GH¢15 – indicating a 50 percent increase within that short space of time.
“As for the price of items I bought, it’s been almost a month since I last came here so I cannot tell the level of increase; but each of them has gone up,” she said.
Rosemary Owusu, a banker from Amasaman, indicated that on hearing of the shops’ closure she wanted to try and see if she could find a shop to buy a dress for a wedding this weekend; but since all the shops in Makola shopping mall are closed and retailers are mentioning outrageous prices, she will rather take one from her wardrobe and re-wear.
No business for Kayaye
A few head-porters (kayaye) who spoke to the B&FT mentioned that, usually, their clients are those who buy in bulk from wholesalers; hence, business has been slow for them as only few people require their services.
They said that if this activity is to continue for about a week, as they are hearing, then some of them might die of hunger.
Defiant GUTA members
Some members of GUTA however said they cannot comply with the Association’s directive due to their financing mechanisms, of which some are loans.
“I have a loan to pay; if I don’t make sales I will be in trouble. My monthly rent for this shop is high; the cedi-depreciation is eroding all the profits because when you price too high they cannot buy; so I cannot afford to close my shop,” she said.
The president of GUTA, Joseph Obeng, in making the declaration indicated the move was necessitated by government’s failure to address the concerns of traders after weeks of engagement.