The planned exit of South African retail giant, Shoprite, from Nigeria has created a big benefit for Market Square, a fast-growing indigenous retail chain in the country.
Market Square is the new anchor tenant for the Tropicana Mall, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, after Shoprite withdrew their interest, apparently because of their planned exit from Nigeria.
The Tropicana Mall, the first in the oil-rich state, is set for opening on December 1.
It is the first time Market Square would be an anchor tenant in a mall, a major milestone in their quest for some chunks of the multi-billion dollars retail market in Nigeria.
“This is our first mall involvement, we have been running stand-alone (retail outlets)” Emmanuel Isangidiok, the marketing manager of Market Square, told PREMIUM TIMES during the inaugural meeting of the mall tenants last Thursday in Uyo.
“We are very excited to be here in Uyo,” Mr Isangidiok added.
“You know, in a mall set-up, we have a lot of people come in for a lot of things, there are a lot of customers visiting a mall which is an added advantage for us. For us, we also deal with numbers,” he said.
Market Square, for now, has 12 stores around Nigeria – seven in Port Harcourt, one each in Enugu, Benin City, Owerri, Yenagoa and Aba.
Olumide Akinsanya, the CEO of Median Infrastructure Company Development Ltd, a major investor in the revamping of the hitherto moribund Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo, expressed confidence in Market Square’s capacity to bring about a new shopping experience for the people in Akwa Ibom State.
The lettable area in the mall has been increased from its initial 5,000sq to about 9,800sq, through the renovation and remodeling of the complex.
Over 80 per cent of the shops in the mall have, so far, been taken by tenants, Mr Akinsanya said.
Local businesses in Uyo – like Jossy Furniture, Quenthall Pharmacy, Oliver Tweest Food, ShadeCover, and the Choice Mall – have signed up for the shops.
MedPlus, a health and beauty concern, with outlets around Nigeria, is among the national and international retailers that have signed up too.
The tenants, at the Thursday meeting, received briefings on safety, security, sanitation, and other issues relating to their operation in the mall.
Gabriel Ukpe, a former employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, who heads a technical committee on foreign direct investments in the state, assured the mall tenants of the state government’s protection against multiple taxation and other forms of exploitation.
The Tropicana Mall, together with a 14-floor storey building meant for a 258-room five-star hotel, a Cineplex (six cinema halls), a 5,000-seat convention centre, and a theme park, comprising wet and dry parks, is a part of Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, a massive leisure and business complex which sits atop 168 hectares of land.
The construction of the Ibom Tropicana began in 2008 during the administration of Godswill Akpabio who said he wanted to use it to turn the oil-rich state into ‘Dubai’.
Except for the Cineplex and a lounge near it, all the components that make up the Ibom Tropicana were non-functional and abandoned by the time Mr Akpabio’s tenure ended in 2015.
Even the cinema was not bringing any money into the government coffers, as movie tickets were subsidised by the government and Silverbird Showtime Ltd, the company which operated it, reportedly did not also make any returns to the Akwa Ibom government.
About 45 persons only, including casual workers, were employed at the Cineplex and the bar by 2018, which was far less than the 5,000 envisaged for the centre on its completion.
The Akpabio administration had said initially it would cost the state N33 billion to build the Tropicana, but three people familiar with the project said in 2018 the cost was later reviewed upward to about N120 billion.
Mr Akpabio’s successor, Udom Emmanuel, had said he would rather “lease out” the Ibom Tropicana instead of putting more money into it.
Mr Akinsanya’s company, Median Infrastructure Company Development Ltd, is a part of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with the Akwa Ibom government to put the Ibom Tropicana on the path to profitability for the first time ever, after being a drain on government resources for several years.
Akwa Ibom State is a low-income economy, where most working-class people earn moderate salaries, working as government employees.
Some new industries are, however, springing up in the state, courtesy of Mr Emmanuel administration’s effort to attract foreign investors to the state.