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October 2007

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Bester says the independent sports retailer has to fight for survival all the time. Some distributors favour the chains by giving them better prices, forgetting that good independent stores more often than not buy more stock per outlet than the stores that are part of chains.

He also believes that distributors do not always give recognition to the extra knowledge, skills and hard work the independent invests into selling their products. "Generally speaking, an independent trader can sell a brand’s technical products much better than a salesperson in a chain," he says. "An independent is motivated by his own need for survival to obtain the necessary knowledge to sell the product. The brands should reward that, instead of giving bigger discounts to chains for buying larger quantities."

Why Brian Bands stood the test of time

For more than half a century Brian Bands Sports have been a Port Elizabeth beacon that offer their customers more than a century’s worth of experience, Pierre Bester told NICOL DU TOIT

Brian Bands Sports is a Port Elizabeth landmark. A store name that everybody younger than fifty will remember as always having been there. Generations of children have bought their sports gear, and their children’s sports gear and now also their grandchildren’s sports gear at this independent store that has stood the test of time.

Current owner Pierre Bester is not exactly sure when Brian Bands opened the store, but he calculates that it must have been about 50 years ago. Bester was still a schoolboy when he started working in the shop in 1969. He worked over weekends and holidays during his last few years at school and also during varsity vacations. When he finished varsity in 1974, Bester became a full-time staff member.

When Brian Bands decided to sell the store, Bester, Bruce Baker and Neville Mallet became joint shareholders. Ten years ago he bought out his partners and is now the sole shareholder.

It is, however, not only Bester that has devoted his whole working life to the store, his staff have also been with him for many years. There are currently eight staff members in the shop and four of them have been there for more than 15 years — that adds up to a cool 120 years’ experience between them. His racket stringer has been with the store since 1964. It will be an understatement to say that amongst them, they have a fair knowledge and understanding of the products they sell. His youngest son, Michael, recently joined the business to continue the great work of the family.

Bester has used these strengths — the accumulated knowledge and skills of the staff — to best advantage to grow the business against stiff opposition.

When the pressure from new shopping malls and chain stores opening began to have an effect on his business, he threw out the replicas and cross trainers and only stocked serious technical footwear and apparel. He did the same with equipment and now stocks products from the middle price points upwards.

He decided to concentrate on functional products for the more serious and active participant, and, in so doing, decided to concentrate on a niche segment that chains cannot successfully serve.

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