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August / September 2008

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The secret of their success?

  • Da Silva believes that one can only work in a retail outlet if you have a passion for the products that you sell and therefore only employ people who are passionate about the outdoors, whether it is climbing, canoeing, or camping, etc.

  • Staff must also get to know the products that they are supposed to sell. He says customers want to get advice on what they want to buy and will realise soon if someone knows the products or not.

  • A problem that most independent retailers face is that if they do not sell at competitive prices, customers will use them to gather information, but then go and buy the product at a discount store. They are therefore forced to sell at very comparable prices.

  • Independents can move much quicker than chains. If a new line comes in, or if there is a new interest developing amongst customers, they can react a lot quicker than a chain.

  • He also has a 4x4 fitment centre at the back of his shop where he can fit bull bars or other items to customers’ cars or 4 x 4’s.

  • He feels that the supplier needs to be part of the team selling products to customers. It therefore serves no purpose to throw your weight around. It is much better keeping the supplier on your side.

  • Don’t stock rubbish. The customer can determine for himself which products are good quality and which are not. If you stock bad quality it tarnishes the shop’s image.

  • Last but not least, you must enjoy what you are doing. Retailing is a hard job with long hours, and if you do not enjoy it you will burn yourself out very quickly.

  • Camping and Outdoor: Getting it right!

    In an interesting reversal of roles, the opening of independent retailer Camping and Outdoor was put in motion by the expansion of an outdoor chain, reports NICOL DU TOIT

    When Outdoor Warehouse, then owned by Sue Bello, wanted to open a Durban franchise in Springfield Park in 1996, they approached Mark da Silva to manage it for them.

    In those days Outdoor Warehouse catered for the serious and dedicated outdoor people like climbers and rowers. Da Silva therefore established a destination store for them in Durban.

    Within two years Bello sold her operation to MoreSport and Da Silva was without a job. By then he knew the market and knew who to cater for and decided to use this knowledge to open his own outdoor shop, Camping and Outdoor, in the Crescent — then a new value centre in Umhlanga Ridge.

    Over the past ten years Da Silva has built up a strong core of loyal customers, who return to his shop time and time again. His store not only draws customers in an urban area where it is becoming increasingly difficult for independents to compete, but is also valued by suppliers as a good mover of their products.

    And despite the supposedly difficult times for independents, Camping and Outdoor has grown so much that he has taken on a partner, Tony Caelers, and opened a branch in Hillcrest.

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