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Daily Nation : February 24th 2014
2 coverstory DAILY NATION Monday February 24, 2014 Spend, spend, spend: New I BY KENFREY KIBERENGE email@example.com @KenKiberenge t is a few minutes after 11 o’clock on an unusually hot Saturday morning outside the Nakumatt store at The Junction mall in Nairobi. Tens of cars with all-dolled-up babies peeping from the backseats are lined up at the security checkpoint for screening as elegantly dressed pedestrians also make their way leisurely into the shopping mall. Once inside, they head in different directions, each searching for his or her spoils in this citadel of commerce. There is much on offer; from the coffee shops to the giant supermarkets, the top-end restaurants, and clothes and shoe shops. Inside Clarks, a new, high-end British shoe shop that opened last December, two Kenyan women in their early 30s are buying a pair of shoes for a child. The shoe, which cannot fit a tot aged more than eight months, is retailing at Sh4,900. In a country where people are accused of scrutinising menus from right to left (to see the price first), the duo is, nevertheless, over the moon. Luxurious brands Reason? They had been looking for pure leather shoes that could fit the child for days on end. The price was not an issue. “The search has finally come to an end,” declares Michelle Awuor as she waits for the attendant to run her credit card. If you have not noticed, luxurious brands have pitched tent in Kenya to get a share of the growing middle class by feeding its changing tastes. And in the run up to Valentine’s Day, marketers were falling all over themselves to get these newly rich shoppers to open their wallets and hand over the credit cards. It is capitalism at its best... or worst, depending on whom you ask. There is no doubt that money, lots and lots of it, has finally found its way into the bank accounts of a lucky many. And these are not shy to off-load their disposable incomes in the most spectacular way. For instance, while just a few years ago the word ‘duvet’ was as foreign to them as its etymological roots, today they are forking out Sh10,000 for the piece of bedding, even as they worry about the thread count on their bed sheets. “To the untrained eye, the ideal bed sheet is all about the price and colour, but as for me the thread count is also important because I want a great sleeping experience,” says Maurice Mbeca, a shopper at Nakumatt. For the uninitiated, a thread count is “the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric”, according to styleathome.com. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally and vertically, but extra threads can also be woven in to increase the thread count, hence, according to some, making the sheet more comfortable. Yes, the high street has come to Kenya — and found ready clients. At the Clarks shop, you can buy a pair of ladies boots, which is a hit with most shoppers, for ‘just’ Sh31,900, and a pair of stilettos made from natural snake skin at Sh11,200. Handbags go for an average of Sh10,700. Interestingly, shop attendants say the items are being bought by more Kenyans than foreigners. Among them is Caroline, who requested us not to use her second name “for security reasons”. Catherine, a Kenyan civil servant, says she lives in Kileleshwa, where she pays a monthly rent of more than Sh50,000. Her monthly domestic shopping costs between Sh30,000 and Sh40,000, she drives an Audi (we could not confirm the model) and on average, a quick dinner for her costs Sh1,500 while a formal one can go up to Sh5,000. On a normal night out, Caroline spends no less than Sh7,000, but this could go up to Sh10,000. Her favourite joint in Nairobi, as far as bars go, is Mercury ABC. “I used to like the Japanese Onami Grill at the Westgate,” she offers. “And About Thyme, Le Rustique and Rusty Nail, which are great for continental cuisines. For sea food, I head to Seven Seas at ABC or the Serena. However, all depends on what I want to eat. I go to restaurants that specialise in different cuisines since they understand their art.” Caroline, who is in the process of buying “an expensive house”, uses the Chanel and Dior range of Numbers that tell a story (KNBS, 2011) 17,000, 50% 23% Percentage of the salaried 2.1 million Kenyans who earn more than Sh15,000 per month Percentage of the salaried 2.1 million who earn above Sh50,000 26% 27% Number of Kenyans, out of about 40 million, who earn more than Sh400,000 a month Percentage of Africans who could be regarded as middle class in 1980 (roughly 111 million people) Percentage who could be regarded as middle class in 1990 (roughly 151.4million people) Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) defines the country’s middle class as anybody spending between 100,000 196m Sh389.3b 313m Sh23,670 and Sh199,9999 Number of Africans who could be regarded as middle class in the year 2000 Amount Kenyans borrowed from commercial banks between January and September 2013 for household consumption Number of Africans who could be regarded as middle class in the year 2010 cosmetics, but she might not need to import the luxurious brands any more because, as part of the Kenya@50 celebrations last December, Nakumatt entered into a franchise partnership with several multinationals, like Clarks, to bring the high life here. Next to Clarks at The Junction is Skechers, a high-end American shoe GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Joseph Odindo GROUP MANAGING EDITOR: Mutuma Mathiu FEATURES EDITOR: Bernard Mwinzi REVISE EDITOR: Mary Wasike SUB-EDITOR: Naliaka Wafula PHOTO EDITOR: Joan Pereruan CHIEF GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Roger Mogusu GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: Nzisa Mulli, Andrew Anini, Dennis Makori, Alice Othieno, Michael Mosota, Ken Kusimba, Hassan Ibrahim, Benjamin Situma, Joy Abisagi, Virginia Borura, Teddy Murimi, Linus Ombette REPORTER: Joy Wanja COVER GRAPHIC AND CONCEPT: Hassan Ibrahim shop that also opened doors in Kenya in 2013. And a Nike shop. Normally, you can buy a replica Manchester United jersey for as little as Sh1,300, but here the originals cost Sh5,595, which is the average price even at the sportsdirect.com shop in London or New York. However, in some of the shops, you have the option of a six-month payment plan, a key indicator that some buyers could be living beyond their means. James Mbugua, a finance and development communication consultant at Africa Practice, warns that most of the so-called middle class are indeed living on borrowed money. “Many are taking loans from banks to finance their lifestyles, which is dangerous,” says Mr Mbugua. “This reached its peak in 2011, when the Central Bank of Kenya was forced to increase its base lending rate sharply because people were importing stuff they really could not afford.” The downside, shop attendants say, is that some of the clothes here is published every week by Nation Media Group Limited. It is distributed free with every Daily Nation. Unsolicited manuscripts, artwork, transparencies are submitted at the sender’s risk. While every care will be taken on receipt of such material, the Nation Media Group Limited cannot accept responsibility for accidental loss or damage. ©Nation Media Group Limited, 2009. All rights reserved.
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