If you were trapped on a desert island…

Nothing Like This…for WEB/PICTURE GALLERY/Westfield shopping centre opens/

Exists on that:

Deserted Island

Living in Ghana sometimes feels like living on the proverbial desert island because it’s not easy to get things from the “outside” — at a reasonable price.  Due to the dearth of shopping options, I used to joke that Ghana was ideal for the married man.  Your wife has nowhere to go shopping and “free shipping” by online retailers does not apply to Africa.

Seems the joke is on me.  Now, I’m the one living in this barren, retail island.

Definition of “mall”

Let me clarify: the term “mall” in Ghana is not the same as that used “outside”.  “Mall” refers to a collection 40 shops.  If you exclude the banks and fast food restaurants at the Accra Mall, there are 43 shops.  The Marina Mall Ghana has about 40 shops as well.  In contrast, Westfield, the Australian mall owner/operator, seems to only bother managing malls with more than 150 shops.

Accra Mall Floor Plan

Accra Mall Floor Plan

Shopping Options in Accra

Within Accra, there are only a handful of shopping options.  First, you can go to Accra Mall to buy K-Mart type clothes.  For instance, Mr. Price, a South African retailer, offers T-shirts for $7 and trousers for maybe $10-$15.  It’s very affordable.  What’s odd is that these clothes are expensive by average Ghanaian standards.

Marina Mall, the tower is for office

Marina Mall, the tower is for office

Second, you can go to the boutiques, e.g. Viva in Osu, which offer genuine designer products, e.g. Louis Voutton, Salvatore Ferraggamo, for twice the price as you would find in Europe.  (The Marina Mall also has both boutiques and K-Mart type shops, too.) The clothes may be one season or one year behind; don’t expect to find all sizes.  Some of these shops also offer Polo or Abercrombie & Fitch.

Third, you can go to the main open-air markets, e.g. Tudu, Tema Station, Kantamanto, to buy second-hand clothes.  “Some sellers [explained that] the Ghanaians abroad go to the homes of the whites/foreigners, to ask of their old items, pile them, and then organise with others who are into the same business, contribute some money to pack them in bales, stuff it with medicine to prevent insects and other organisms from destroying them, and ship them to Ghana,” reported a journalist for the Ghana Chronicle.  I’ve also heard that people buy clothes from Goodwill in bulk then put them in containers to ship to Ghana.

If you don't like air-conditioning and you like "vintage, then buy your clothes here

If  you like “vintage”, then buy your clothes here

One of my male workers used to wear Armani Exchange and Diesel shirts.  I always thought, If only he knew how much those shirts cost at retail…Considering how I was never a big fan of “vintage” in the US, I don’t think I will pick up the habit in Ghana.  

Fourth, you import your own or have your friends/family bring it to you on their next visit.  This takes some of the fun out of shopping because it eliminates the impulse purchase.  Moreover, you run the risk of buying the wrong size because you’re not returning anything from Ghana.

New Options Coming (“Meiba Wey”)

To be fair, there are at least three new retail centers scheduled to open in the next two years.  Recently, the Ghana Libyan Arab Holding’s Oxford Street Mall in Osu opened.  (Osu is the heart of shopping and retail in Accra.)  The 13-storey complex contains a hotel; the 27 shops of retail is anchored by South African supermarket chain, ShopRite.

Oxford Street Mall

Oxford Street Mall

Another retail center will be at Airport City near Opeibea House and Airport Residential.  Both Icon House (2014) built by RMB Westport, a South African developer, and the neighboring complex (2014) — the name escapes me — will offer shops. Finally, the West Hills Mall on the Winneba road is also expected to offer more shopping options.

Despite these new shops, I still think the shopping challenges for foreigners will persist. The shops are geared toward middle-class Africans.  The varieties and brands that I am accustomed to probably will not arrive any time soon.

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