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Photo left: Grant Steyl (left) is responsible for sports footwear and Emile Cloete is co-manager of sports equipment. The other manager, Christmas Dumezwehi, was running the Soweto marathon. Photo right: Rosina Lecheka manages the sports clothing department in the Bloemfontein store. Photos: Nicol du Toit.

Q4 2018

Kloppers Sport growing in tough times

Kloppers Sport has been one of the big South African retail success stories. Dirk Klopper explains why they have been expanding when so many other retailers have been scaling down. Words: Trudi du Toit

In this challenging economic environment when reports of distributorships or retailers closing doors are no longer big news, it is heartening to hear of a retailer growing and opening new doors. But then Kloppers, the landmark family-run store in Bloemfontein, always bucked trends.

The brothers recently bought a Bloemfontein property where a brand-new building, consisting of two 20 000m2 boxes, will be built by 2021.

After 17 years as an anchor tenant in the Loch Logan Waterfront mall, they hope to relocate towards the end of 2021. All their current retail departments will be allocated ample space on the four floors of one of these boxes — including sport, run by the youngest brother Dirk Klopper, and outdoor, for which his brother Anton Klopper is responsible (see Suppliers hosted by Kloppers outdoor).

This was some of the good news Steva Klopper shared with the guests who attended their 29th Suppliers’ Function in Bloemfontein early in November. As always, the hugely enjoyable party was a chance for rival distributors from across the country to socialise, joke and talk about everything but business.

Despite the difficult trading conditions their three coastal department stores in Port Elizabeth, George and Knysna, as well as the flagship Bloemfontein store, have been doing well, Leon Klopper said. These stores all have outdoor departments.

In addition, they opened a new dedicated sport store in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, at the end of July. In just three months this store has been trading exceptionally well because it is within walking distance of just about all the Stellenbosch sport mad schools, as well as the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, says Dirk.

This university town also attracts many sport tournaments, which require the supply of a lot of top-up accessories and services like the stringing of tennis rackets. Dirk’s son recently won the Curro International Tennis Federation (ITF) F1 Junior Tour tennis tournament held in Stellenbosch, while the ITF Digicall Futures events will be played in the town at the end of November (see Tennis on a roll).

The Stellenbosch store compliments their combined outdoor and sport store outside the CapeGate Centre in Cape Town, housed in its own standalone building. The store’s sales revenue grew 12% compared to the year before, when it was still located in the centre, he says.

The sales were especially driven by hockey, which has been experiencing a few years of very good growth. “It is a sport played across the spectrum — from four years olds to club players, by boys and girls,” says Dirk. “The technology in the products also appeal as the brands have really stepped up.”

They carry a very wide selection, stocking brands that cater for the entry level to the top end players.

Running growing well

Running is also growing well, with more and more people choosing to participate in this form of exercise.

Although there may not be so much growth in tennis participation, he believes that tennis generates more repeat sales than any other sport and he therefore ensures that Kloppers Sport offers a substantial tennis selection.

An accomplished racket stringer is therefore an essential appointment in any sport store, he says. For example, in the small pro shop they own in Tableview, Cape Town, the income is mainly generated by stringing rackets.

But, surprisingly, the accolade for the sport that has grown the most over the past five years goes to netball. “This is due to more players participating and more appealing shoes and equipment,” he says.

Cricket, on the other hand, had another off-season, which Dirk partly attributes to the drought in the Cape that prevented some schools and clubs from maintaining fields. These days, with everybody running short on time, a time-intensive sport requiring expensive equipment, like cricket, also doesn’t attract many new participants, he says. Bloemfontein also does not have a T20 franchise to stimulate interest in the new league to debut in November and December this year. They nevertheless stock a wide variety of cricket brands, some in smaller numbers.

Soccer bigger than rugby

Soccer generates much more revenue for them than rugby equipment. With so many customers’ buying power curtailed, the top rugby boots from popular brands are often simply priced beyond the means of most of the customers. Ball sales are driven by schools, he says, and their budgets are also restricted.

While soccer replica sells relatively well, rugby does not — not even the Springbok jersey, except when a test match is played in Bloemfontein, or the ‘Boks do well in a test series or big tournament.

“Most of the replica shirts are priced beyond the means of the target market,” he complains. He therefore decided not to sell any replica shirts for more than R699, irrespective of the suggested retail price. The Bloemfontein Celtic shirt prices he reduced to R500, because he believes this is the maximum price the local fans can afford.

When Kloppers took over the Somerset Sport store in the CapeGate Shopping Centre, Dirk was a bit nervous to take on the fishing department, as he knew nothing about fishing and fishing was part of his brother Anton’s outdoor department in Bloemfontein.

“If I had closed the fishing department, it would have been a huge mistake,” he says of this department, which remains a valuable revenue generator.

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