Botswana flag Botswana: Buying and Selling

The distribution network in Botswana

Evolution of the Sector
Due to the lack of large, established distributor networks, some distributors act as their own wholesalers and retailers. Most established large-scale distributors are based in the south or center of the country. Smaller distributors exist in the north and are expected to expand operations as construction on oil and gas projects move forward. New entrants to the distribution market are also expected in the northern region. Though, it is common for goods to be sold in the informal market/grey economy.

The emergence of big giant chain stores, popularly known as supermarkets, was a game changer in the Botswana retail industry. This phenomenon created some kind of shock and awe to general dealers as some of them were totally overrun while others collapsed.  Those who managed to hold are operating on a marginal basis, a situation which raises concerns about the sustainability of the general dealership model.

Market share
In Botswana, the first actors to enter the retail market were South African brand-franchise chain shops such as Supa Save, Spar, Pick and Pay and Game.  Their sheer size in terms of capital structure and supply chain networks could not be matched by the small general dealers.  Then came the local innovation, Choppiest supermarkets, which established itself faster by penetrating areas where the South African stores were reluctant to venture into. It is Choppiest which tracked general dealers to their hidden abode in the periphery, which posed serious competition and a threat to small general dealers. Since the coming of these giant shops, general dealership model has had a tough time and dwindled to the point of threatening their very existence.

Between the supermarkets and general dealers was a market gap, especially across streets and remote areas.  This gap created a new business model:  Tuck-shops or Seamus as they are called in Botswana. The tuck-shops are a replication of general dealers but at a much lower level.  Similarly, they share similarities in terms of advantages and disadvantages. For example, they are simple to start, require less capital to start, and offer convenient location to customers.  But because they are family-run and informally managed, they struggle to grow and face vigorous competition.
Retail Sector Organisations
Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry

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Latest Update: April 2024