Why January semester is bad news to business


It is the Easter (January) Semester and  the majority of the university students are not on session. Students in the faculties of Education and Arts, Law, Science and Technology, and Health sciences are not on campus.

Those who are off-session are thankful that they will have to rest for the next four months. They are happy that they will have time to make some pocket money for their next semester.

This situation is however  bad news for the business owners in and around the Mukono campus, because most of their clients are the university students and staff members.

The affected people are usually the owners of  boutiques, grocery shops, restaurants and stationeries, among other small-scale businesses around the university. Literally, the higher the number of students, the more sales will be made.

Uganda Christian University has three intakes a year. The intake with the majority of students is September, which has many new and continuing students.

The advantage with having three intakes is that the university is able to engage most of the staff members whether particular faculties are on session or off. On the other hand, the university does not take a break concurrently.

Most vendors and business owners rejoice when the  Advent Semester clocks in. Some  even increase the selling price of their produce to compensate for the Easter Semester blues.

Business owners complain

Swayibu Mukasa, the chairman of the Boda boda Riders’ Association at Bishop’s Stage, says the first month of the semester is usually tricky because most schools are closed off for holidays and the university has few students.

“January has few students unlike the September Semester where most of the students are on session. On average, in a September Semester, one can ferry more than ten students in a day compared to six in January,” he said.

Raymond Kawooya another boda cyclist says that whenever the Easter Semester clocks in, he gets fewer clients every day until the closure of the semester.

“I work during the evening, and this January semester does not favour me at all because the campus students are few.When they are off-session, I am usually broke,” he said.

Aisha Nazziwa, an employee at Touch of Class Restaurant also said that in the Easter Semester the restaurant receives fewer orders from students. So the fewer numbers do not only affect the boda riders only.

“Most of our clients are staff members. So business drops for us in January too,” she added.

Flavia Nazziwa who runs a grocery shop is usually worried that her sales drop when most students are not in session. She says most students purchase soft drinks and airtime from her shop.

Since she is strategically located at the Kampala Stage, most of her clients are students who stay in the nearby hostels.

Sarah Sanyu of Runah Hostel, adjacent to the Technology Park Gate, says that January affects the number of students who stay in the hostel

“This semester I have registered only 30 students compared to the 100 students who usually come in the September semester,” Sanyu added.

How to handle demand crisis

Richard Sebaggala, a lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Administration, advises that entrepreneurs should avoid venturing into one particular business. They should be able to have other ventures from which one can find an income even when a particular audience is not available.

“For example, if you own a stationery shop, it is not advisable that you entirely depend on it. Have more products because a time comes when the demand of a particular product is low.”

Sebaggala further adds that business owners should consider non-student produce.

“They should as well think about products that are beneficial to both the students and staff members, such that when the student numbers are low at a particular point, the staff can easily close that gap.”

And while the off-session arrangement hurts some businesses, one has to note that it is beneficial to both students and parents. For example, the parents are given time to find tuition, especially after the festive season during which spending money is inevitable.

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