Inside the world of street traders 


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Street trading is an age-long marketing strategy. Notwithstanding several laws, attendant risks and treatment of its operators as pariahs, the practice has continued to flourish,writes JANE CHIJIOKE. IN 2007, he left his native home in Osun State, with the hope of getting employment in a cozy environment. But this was not be. To survive,  young Olaide Adeyemi thought of several ways. A friend introduced him to street trading. With a loan of N4, 000 from his friend, he bought packets of a popular snacks meal and launched out. He realised that he sold faster in the traffic. To augment his sales, Adeyemi was introduced to selling a company’s product, which gave him the branded equipment. “For the N100 ice-cream, my profit is N22. I get N40 gain from the plastic container ice-cream I sell for N150, although some of us sell it for N200.  So, at the end of the day, I calculate the number of product I sold and deducted my own money before I deliver for the day sales to the company,” Adeyemi told this reporter. He added that daily, he made profits in the region of N5,000 -N6,000. But when the market is dull, it shrinks to as little as N1,000- N2,000. Welcome to the business of street trading. Street trading, whether on the highways or the streets, has survived for centuries. Now it is borne out of the need to eke out a living, giving the challenging times in the country. Such trading is  common in developing countries with over population in urban areas. According to data on urban growth, Lagos State, estimated to have over 24 million people, has the highest urban population growth in the country at the rate of 27.4 percent. As a result, many people resort to casual work or engage in informal entrepreneurship, such as street trading. To some of its operators, street trading is viable. They access all street corners to ply their trade. The more streets they comb, the more sales they make. & Modus operandi For those who trade on the highways, the modus operandi is one that is energy sapping and poses danger to operator’s life. For instance, traders are seen running after cars, displying their products before motorists to solicit patronage. They sell items, such as cooked food, snacks, beverages, bread, kitchen utensils, furniture, shoes, and clothes. To assist one another, they share information on areas that are traffic filled to make more sales and alert themselves on the state law enforcement agencies who haunt them. Street trading, they argued, is a battle for survival. As such, they are not deterred by the government policies to stop them. Some claim mobile trading generates quick profit as they get more than 60 percent of their customers through such a channel than selling in shops or an online interface. To face the day’s task,  some take herbal or the orthodox medicine to keep them fit and retire later at night to either under bridges, paired apartment, their homes or their guardian homes whom they remit the proceed from the day’s sales to. In the past, street hawking had little value as it was believed to be for those who could barely have one square meal a day. They traded their goods, moving from one house to another, street to street, announcing their presence. Some display their wares on the roadside. & ‘Corporate’ sales Some firms have also defined smart ways of getting their products to the market. They engage hawkers, who they give the products to sell. At the end of the day’s business, the hawker returns the product cost and is paid a commission on the volume sold. As part of assistance to them, the traders are given the company’s branded paraphernalia, such as carts, tricycle, bicycle, and vans  to aid their sales as well as some  ‘comfort. For instance, a street trader, Donald Obi, who sells a company’s range of home appliances in Ikotun area of Lagos State, explained that he was not paid by the company. “We were recruited by the marketing manager of the company. We get our profit from the number of goods we are able to sell in a day. For instance, the company pegs this bulb at N400; we sell at N450-N500. So, that is how we make our own gains,” he revealed. & Changing face of street trading Because of the most proximate channel to reach the end consumers and the quick sales it generate, street trading has gained more attraction as even traders who own shops leverage the advantages it offers. But with the entrance of new products into the market, which has heightened competition, most  organisations have adopted mobile street selling as a strategy to gain more market. Beyond their channels of distribution, some firms employ youths to hawk their goods.  They are seen moving from street to street and on the highways persuading passersby and motorists to buy a particular product or introduce them to a new product or services. Occasionally, they organise product display at strategic areas along streets and entertain passersby to patronise them. “The competition in the market is high. We c...