Talk us through your retail journey
Until 2000, I was the Managing Director of a group whose core business was processed meat production and meat supplies for the local market, including the diamond mining town of Orapa in Central Botswana. Incidentally, the first SPAR opened in Orapa in the late 1970s as the only supermarket serving the mining community. The town was self-sufficient with its own abattoir, dairy and industrial bakery. The mine then decided to privatise and focus on the mining of diamonds instead of supermarkets and abattoirs. We successfully tendered for the SPAR store and the abattoir as a package and entered the retail market in 1995. I opened two more outlets before leaving the group towards the end of 1999 and bought into an existing group owned by three individuals. I started off by purchasing five stores and I now have 28 SPAR stores with 18 TOPS, employing 2,501 people.
What are the key departments in your stores?
Although my passion still lies within the meat industry and I have a special relationship with my butcheries, I do believe that all departments are equally important and no department can do without the other. We primarily focus on selling groceries, but do offer the added convenience of Home Meal Replacements, as well as the freshest products in our in-house Butcheries, Bakeries and Fruit and Vegetable sections.
How do you stay ahead of the competition?
We consistently upgrade and modernise our stores and try to invest in a revamp at least once every five years. We will find and implement new concepts that are available as long as it is relevant to our market. We have specifically modernised our Home Meal Replacement sections to offer more exciting options.
Do you run responsible retailing initiatives instore?
Yes, we have started bailing cardboard cartons and plastic for recycling. We have also made SPAR paper bags available to customers to reduce our single use plastics. All our new stores have been fitted with LED lighting and as we revamp our stores, we replace existing lights with LED to reduce our carbon footprint. The last three revamped stores have seen the installation of refrigeration units that operate on a closed water system, which substantially reduces electricity usage. We are also experimenting with a Smart Controller on our bakery ovens to reduce energy use. In terms of food waste, we supply old cooking oil to a local company that uses it to create biodiesel.
How do keep your customers loyal to SPAR?
In my opinion, the only way to keep a customer loyal is to improve on personal service. To this end we have implemented the G.U.E.S.T. system, which creates a platform where we can get back to basics and create an environment where shopping becomes an enjoyable experience. Training is of paramount importance in our company and we are fortunate to be able to send our staff to the SPAR training college in South Africa as an added incentive and to broaden their horizons.
We also run a very successful annual competition called “My SPAR My Botswana”, which creates incredible excitement amongst our shoppers. In addition to a 21 car give away, mobile phones up for grabs and radio competitions, we run a nationwide store competition that includes choir competitions and store dress-ups showcasing our various local cultures. Our customers thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere created by this initiative and enter into the spirit of things by rooting for their favourite store.
Our Local Rewards card is very popular and successful with most of our customers, while ‘Text me’ is another way we communicate to our customers along with radio, newsprint and television.
How do you see the future for yourself?
I will continue to work alongside my team to grow the SPAR Brand in Botswana and beyond. We are in the process of finalising building plans for a new warehouse in Botswana to improve service and stock to our stores. We have also opened two stores in Namibia and are in partnership with SPAR South Africa in Zambia.
This story was first published in our quarterly magazine, Contact International.
To read more stories from the publication which celebrates SPAR success around the globe, follow this link.