Street Vending, a viable option for job creation…

Street vendor long

During a recent trip to the UK, Italy and France, I came across a number of street vendors selling various products from snacks to souvenirs.  As an entrepreneur always looking for new business ideas, I began to focus on the types of products being sold, the location chosen by the street vendors and the way in which their products were displayed. While observing the street vendors I was struck by the following:

Product:  It was clear that vendors tried to offer different products in extremely creative ways avoiding a situation where the same products are offered repeatedly.  The vendors were able to price their products appropriately and avoided discounting as it is difficult for customers to trade one vendor against another.

Location:  An area of high pedestrian traffic near office blocks, places of interest or transport links seems to offer the best chance of succeeding on an ongoing basis ensuring long term sustainability. The location also needs to allow the customer enough time to take advantage of what products are being offered.

Operations:  The street vendors need to have a passion for dealing with people and selling their products.  Vendors who are successful need to treat every enquiry from a customer with a level of enthusiasm about the possibility of making a sale. Another factor which was apparent was the speed of service to ensure customers are not inconvenienced with long wait times and the vendor is able to convert enquiries into cash.

Presentation:  It was also noticeable that vendors did invest in the manner in which their products are presented in terms of packaging and design of their stands or mobile carts. The level of effort taken is remarkable and the effect on customers could be seen. In many cases the benefit of good presentation resulted in customers noticing the vendor, buying the product and then taking photos at the vendors stand.

In South Africa we have held the belief that entrepreneurship is one of the solutions to the countries unemployment problems. However too many solutions proposed, look like MBA dissertations and lack the practical implementable street-wise aspects. Retailing products and services remains one of the quickest ways for unskilled persons to begin to generate cash and we should devote more time to developing sales and customers service skills.

I do believe that there are many retailing opportunities within or close to corporate offices and high traffic locations which are have not been fully exploited and can be developed through effective enterprise development strategies.