The sign is up. Pick n Pay is the new anchor store at Arundel Village. There’s still some way to go before it’ll be opening its doors to the public, but at least it is now clear who’ll be taking pride of place.
It’s been almost three months since Spar was evicted from Arundel Village amid much controversy. And it’s likely to be almost as long before there’s a supermarket along Quorn Avenue again.
Building work has begun for Pick n Pay’s imminent opening, with the floor space being expanded to allow for a bigger footprint for the new supermarket. However, rumours about the opening have been flying among the shops in the Village, each suggesting a different date.
Shops in the complex that rely on passing trade are very keen for it to reopen. They have been struggling as a result of there being no grocery store to bring in the customers. When Harare News visited on a Saturday morning, the once busy parking lot was far from bustling.
“With no exception, business is down,” said one shop owner. “Going on small talk, I’d say we’ve probably dropped to half the business on average here.” He said that while the country is in the middle of a recession, to lose the supermarket at the same time amplifies the problem.
Another said they were getting a fifth of the customers they used to get when the Spar was open, as impulse buyers were no longer passing through. “We haven’t died completely, but comparing what we are getting now and what we used to get, we are considering it dead.” They believe their customers, who are people who want everything from one place, are now going to Borrowdale.
“People just don’t walk in,” said another. For them, the closure has meant a serious shrinking of budgets, with salaries and allowances for staff being affected. “We were always busy before, there was no time for tea.”
For those shops that offer specialty items, the closing of Spar has only meant a small loss. Veldemeers, for instance, believes that if people want chocolate they’ll come regardless of who else is open in the vicinity. Although they, too, have recorded some losses. The pharmacy also says that it still draws its regular customers but hasn’t had much passing trade.
That said the complex hasn’t been idle while the anchor store has been sitting empty. Maintenance of the Village has been kept up, adjustments are being made to buildings and some tenants feel that once the Pick n Pay does eventually open, returning customers will be pleased with the overall look and feel of the Village. The new Friday morning market has also gone some way towards keeping the complex busy while there was no supermarket.
When asked to comment, John Travlos from the management of Arundel Village declined. He’ll be furnishing Harare News with more details as the time comes.