Independent stores, the heartbeat of rural retail

Rivesh Sudhama, regional manager of bonsella® in KZN

The Golden Sun store in Tongaat

Independent stores, the heartbeat of rural retail

In February Shopping & Retail SA visited KwaZulu-Natal to explore the vibrant independent retail sector. Although myriad independent stores are spread out all around the country, KZN is recognised as the national pulse of independently owned retail outlets.

Rivesh Sudhama, regional manager of the specialist loyalty group in this sector, bonsella®, met us at King Shaka airport to chaperone us through a range of independent stores from Tongaat, to Hammarsdale and Pietermaritzburg.

Our first stop was the Golden Sun store in Tongaat, a relatively young family owned store established some fifteen years ago by Yashim. This no-frills operation is functional in its design and layout, is very clean and very efficiently run. Golden Sun boasts 10 tills and processes a staggering 10 000 transactions per day.

“Loyalty is key for these shops,” explained Rivesh. “Most if not all customers are from the local community and surrounding district, and will visit the store two to three times per week, purchasing smaller baskets more often as they are mostly weekly paid. And pricing in these stores is also highly competitive,” continued Rivesh.

In this and other regions, bonsella® have established a strong presence with their unique and highly successful loyalty rewards programme. Each independent store has one or more smartly dressed and well-presented bonsella® consultants on the floor, complete with tablet and bonsella® app. By interviewing customers on an ongoing basis and feeding live data into the app, bonsella® are able to offer FMCG brand managers unprecedented near-live and accurate research data. The primary benefit for shoppers is to receive a “bonsella” (meaning gift) in-store, either through being sent instant airtime at the till-point for buying bonsella® promotional items, or various other in-store competitions and give-aways. FMCG brands benefit directly from this service by being able to reward and communicate with these shoppers directly.

Having integrated into more than 20 Point-of-sale (POS) systems across the country, the airtime is received in real time at the till, much to customers’ delight, with no more more than a swipe of the bonsella® card required.

“It’s all about activity,” explains Rivesh, who then outlined the bigger promotions, where, for example, a store or brand may make a microwave available which through the “bonsella® Universe” enables a customer to “swipe-and-win” – standing a chance to win the microwave. When these competitions are linked to products in-store, and combined with most of the familiar favourite brands being on promotion, this draws significant interest and a high level of customer participation.

Hammarsdale PowerTrade Cash and Carry shuttle ferries customers continuously from the local taxi rank to the store

On then to Hammarsdale where Rivesh introduces us to the Hammarsdale PowerTrade Cash and Carry store. This store too impresses with its functionality and clear efficiency, and is unique in that it houses both a wholesale and retail section under one roof, enabling spaza-shop owners to purchase their bulk supplies as well as catering for its regular community. Innovation abounds and is epitomised here by the store’s brightly coloured Mercedes Sprinter shuttle, which ferries customers continuously from the local taxi rank to the store.

In Pietermaritzburg Rivesh guides us to a local eatery where we chat about retail over our pleasantly hot bunny-chow – delicious – before heading off to the Save Group corporate head office to meet with the chief buyer, Suleman Parak.

The Save Group is renowned for its eight Save Hyperstores stores in KZN which services customers across the full range of LSM (Living Standards Measure) demographics. Save’s largest store is its massive main store in Pietermaritzburg which has “everything under one roof”, 54 tills and is also the largest appliance retailer in the Midlands. All stores are serviced by Save’s own distribution centre

Save’s largest store is its massive main store in Pietermaritzburg

Suleman notes that bonsella® has been rolled out in most of the Save stores and will reach its full potential in the main store within the next two months as system software integration completes. He notes too that bonsella® is very well received by Save customers.

Shopping & Retail SA will continue to explore the many facets of independent stores for you, our readers, unlocking opportunities for store owners and FMCG brand managers alike, and will share the many innovative trading solutions emanating from this sector.

Click here to find out more about bonsella

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