It’s been over a year since Nakumatt turned Nakumatt Ukay into a 24-hour facility. 24-hour shopping has become quite normal in Nairobi with Nakumatt Downtown and Nakumatt Ngong Road both also having become 24-hour facilities in the recent past. How has the phenomenon of round-the-clock supermarket availability affected your life during the course of the past year?
For me, let me just come right out and say it: I love being able to shop all day and all night as the need arises. Being a very nocturnal person, you can often find me at Nakumatt Ngong Road doing seemingly weird things at seemingly weird hours. Yes, I think there is no better time to check out shoes or shop for laptop bags than when you are done with absolutely everything else you need to do for the day but aren’t feeling sleepy yet (understand: around midnight). I definitely feel that this round-the-clock availability has helped me be a lot more productive than I would be if all I could do late at night was hang out or flip through television channels (I don’t really like to watch TV).
When Nakumatt Ngong Road and Ukay first extended their hours, of course this was big news so I took advantage of these longer hours as often as possible, just because I could. After a while though, it became normal and I really didn’t think about it that much anymore. Sometime mid this year, when I stopped by Fone Xpress at Nakumatt Ngong Road to help a friend, who was travelling out of the country, buy a phone after midnight, a couple of hours before he had to fly out of town, it hit me all over again: Nakumatt having several 24-hour stores around the country (which encourages other stores housed in the same shopping complexes to also be open round-the-clock) was bound to make a real difference in our lives as East Africans (I hear the Nakumatt in Kigali is also 24-hour and that some of the branches to be open in Tanzania and Uganda will also offer this service)! We may take it for granted, but I don’t think our societies can remain same old, same old.
The question is: a year down the line, how has your life been affected by the 24-hour supermarket phenomenon? Has it changed at all? If so, has the change been positive or negative? Did Nakumatt do a good thing by giving us the possibility of being able to shop 24 hours a day?
When I was younger, while studying at a North American University, I remember coming home for the summer and, with my friends, commenting about a business that we found closed in the middle of the day. Our first reaction was to bash the business and the African work ethic in general, but further reflection on the situation led to me to conclude that not having businesses open all the time was a price I was willing to pay, as a customer, to live in a world that moved at a more leisurely pace (a pace that I think allows for people’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing) as well as one that has so many opportunities for warm, rich social interactions. As much as I love that I can keep doing, doing, and doing until late into the night nowadays, I wonder if, in the long run, this won’t eat away at our society’s social fabric because now, instead of sitting together and sharing moments in our common human experience, we might be working late to provide these late-night services or feel obliged to take advantage of them since, after all, aren’t we slowly (but surely) becoming a society obsessed with maximizing productivity?
Trust me, I am not in any way saying that such thoughts detract from the pleasure I experience being able to shop whenever I want to, but I just couldn’t help consider possible future consequences of this seeming Godsend.
Whatever the case, I’d really like to hear what you have to say. How has the phenomenon of 24-hour supermarkets affected your life? Do you think this phenomenon is a move in the right direction for our society? Or rather, do you think it’s a move in the wrong direction?
I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.