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August / September 2008

Retailer showcase:

Adventure meets retail

The new adventure centre opened by Cape Union Mart shows that SA retailing can compete with the best in the world

The new Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre is a store South Africans can be proud of. European visitors to the 2010 FIFA World Cup next year will see that it compares well with the best in European retailing — indeed showing “anything they can do, we can do better.”

It is one one of Africa’s largest outdoor adventure centres — a huge double storey 2 200m² standalone “pod” at the Canal Walk Shopping Centre in Cape Town.

A two-storey high climbing wall, cold chamber, rain chamber and footwear station allows customers to test gear in the tough conditions they will have to withstand when worn — a thermal monitor in the icy chamber even tells you if your clothing is warm enough to maintain body temperature.

A spider box, jelly fish tank, bug holograms and mini-climbing wall keep the kids entertained, while the entrance area will be used for talks by outdoor celebrities like Martin Dreyer, Everest climber John Black, and Braam Malherbe who ran the length of the Great Wall of China.

But it is the spacious, shopper-friendly, well-signposted rugged store design that impresses most. Filled with an impressive variety of top outdoor brands — and extensive ranges of most of them — it offers a shopping experience that could very much become a pleasant outing.

“Cyclical downturns are opportunities for long term investments and South Africans who believe in the country’s potential should stop bemoaning the present and rather embrace the future,” Philip Krawitz, Cape Union Mart Group CEO, said at the opening of the store.

This store is indeed a step into the future.

75 Years young… and stronger than ever!

Two family-owned and operated South African retail icons are celebrating their 75th birthdays this year. One is an independent sports retail specialist, the other a chain of 75 outdoor and travel stores. What have they been doing right?

Why does Cape Union Mart keep on growing?

Cape Union Mart celebrated their 75th birthday in August with the opening of their 75th store, chocolates numbered with a 7 and 5 sent to all staff members and a huge birthday cake cut at head office

While retailers all over the world are contracting, Cape Union Mart is expanding.

Over the past 75 years the “Army and Navy” store founded by the late Philip Krawitz in Corporation Street, Cape Town, has evolved into a sophisticated retail group that opened their 75th store in their anniversary month.

Two more stores will be opening before the end of September and in the first quarter of next year a massive superstore of 2 000m2 will start trading in Canal Walk — more than double the size of their 800m2 flagship store in the V&A Waterfront. They believe this will become THE outdoor destination in SA.

And to show that they are looking forward to continued growth in the next 75 years, they have announced plans for a new chain of lifestyle ladies stores, focusing on clothing, house wares, bath and body products and gifts for next year.

This will add a third dimension to their current 60 (soon 62) Cape Union Mart and 15 Old Khaki stores — the latter developed as stand alones after the clothing range developed for the 25-35 year old target market proved successful in Cape Union Mart stores.

Their product offering has also diversified with the introduction of K-Way Kids in order to provide 3-10 year olds with a “mini-me” range offering the same technical features that their parents enjoy. “When I wear a K-Way soft shell I know that I am going to be protected against the harshest climate — with K-Way Kids I can be sure that my child will have the same kind of protection,” explains Martine Vogelman, great-granddaughter of the founder and the driving force behind the development. Her idea proved to be a winner when the initial launch into eight stores was sold out within a few weeks.

Reasons for success

Which begs the question: why all this growth and innovation in a time when manufacturers and retailers worldwide are struggling?

“We offer value to the higher LSM groups, who are not as affected by an economic downturn,” explains marketing manager Evan Torrance.

Their customers are also more aware of sustainability issues and therefore value products like their recycled fleeces and organic cotton. “There is a definite shift towards greater environmental responsibility from customers and they are creating leverage for stores to supply.”

But, it is not because of public demand that they are providing environmentally responsible products, says Kennith Barlow, head of Cape Union Mart stores. “We aim to be ethical and moral in everything we do.”

They put this in practice when they cancelled an order from a supplier accused of illegally importing from China and refuse to be a name sponsor of events associated with alcohol or tobacco.

“As a family operation we have to act in a morally responsible manner because it reflects on the family name,” says Vogelman.

The Krawitz family name is indeed interwoven with the fabric of the company: the third generation of the family now runs the group, with the fourth generation already making their mark. The brand that reflects their name has also become a world-recognised South African brand name, as tourists arriving at Heathrow can attest.

Philip Krawitz, grandson of the founder, decided to move their clothing manufacturing operation closer to home in the early 1980s and opened a clothing factory in Ottery. His father, Arthur Krawitz, was affectionately known as “Mr K”, and during his time at the factory everybody at Cape Union Mart knew very well that there was only one right way of doing things, and that was the Mr K’s way. It was therefore natural to name their locally made range of outdoor and travel clothing after the way in which it is made, the K-way.

And in a time when most manufacturers outside China have to downsize, the K-Way factory in Ottery, Cape Town, is working to capacity, with lack of space the only constraint. SA will ultimately be faced with a crisis of supply, rather than a crisis of demand, believes current Group Chairman and CEO, Philip Krawitz , and therefore the company wants to protect its supply lines. “In 75 years we have never retrenched anyone, and we aim to keep that record intact,” he says.

This factory has remained on the forefront of innovation, like the “sew-free” technology that fuses seams, which is the first such development in Africa, says Vogelman.

Kilimanjaro K-Way

The K-Way brand has also become so well established on Kilimanjaro that a local storekeeper named his business en route to basecamp after it. Many of the 20 000-odd South Africans going to the mountain each year use the brand and the company has also donated thousands of branded jackets to the porters working on the mountain.

To date the company has sent 75 staff members to Kilimanjaro (brought all 75 back too) of whom 53 summited. The teams going to Kilimanjaro are kitted out from their own stores and, where possible, wear and use K-way apparel, tents and backpacks.

The fact that their staff members are encouraged to use in-store products to live the outdoor life has made them amongst the most knowledgeable in the industry, says Barlow. They also run an in-store competition where the staff member that scores the most points in a year for their trading performance and for participating in outdoor activities like hiking and walking can win a holiday worth R20 000 — effectively paying their staff to enjoy the outdoors!

“Consumers are today more knowledgeable than ever before due to the internet and the amount of information available to them,” says Barlow. “When people invest in a big purchase, they expect the staff to know what they are talking about and offer them appropriate advice. If you use the products yourself, you can offer this kind of advice from experience.”

August / September 2008

Jackson Sport defies the odds

Jackson Sport in Pietermaritzburg has proven that a good independent sports store can indeed have a long and happy life.

In a time when independent sport retailers are migrating from cities to smaller towns in droves, Jackson Sports remains a retail household name in Pietermaritzburg.

What is more, 75 years after Tim Jackson opened the MT Jackson sports store in Church Street, it is still owned by his family. Although no longer situated in Church Street, the store’s credibility as a service provider for serious sports people has remained unchanged since 1933.

The store had, however, not always had a Jackson at the helm. When Tim Jackson went to North Africa to fight in the Second World War in 1939, his business partner, Dare Osborne, managed the store until he returned in 1945. After Jackson’s death in 1964, Osborne again ran MT Jackson until his retirement in 1975, when Tim’s son, Peter (who had been with the company since 1967) took over as senior partner, along with his brother Tony Jackson and Bruce Baxter.

The second generation of Jacksons changed the name to Jackson Sports.

Five years later, Tony opened a branch in Durban, followed by another outlet in Westville four years after that. Ten years on and the brothers decided to consolidate their own operations, with the Durban branches trading as Tony Jackson Sports and Jackson Sports in Pietermaritzburg retained and run by Peter Jackson.

In 1996 Jackson Sports opened a branch in Victoria Road under the guidance of Bruce Baxter. In 2000, due to changed shopping patterns, they sold their Church Street premises and moved operations to their present location at 240 Victoria Road.

Throughout the years, KwaZulu Natal’s sports people have come to rely on the advice, quality merchandise and sporty chats provided by Jackson Sports. They have always known that they would be assisted by people who’ve played the sport and know the score — for example, cricketers Jackie and Robin McGlew once worked at Jackson’s Sports, as did SA hockey player Greg Nichol and more recently, Springbok rugby’s Butch James. Bob Foss (who played SA Country Districts Cricket) also worked for Jackson Sports and he became a well recognised figure at polo fields around the country.

Tim Jackson was president of the SA Golf Union, represented Natal in golf and badminton, and played first class cricket. One of his brothers was AB Jackson, after whom Pietermaritzburg’s hockey fields are named, while Dare Osborne was a longstanding secretary of the Maritzburg and District Football Association (MDFA).

Peter Jackson has played league hockey, tennis, squash and golf, as well as cricket for Old Collegians under Jackie McGlew. His wife, Pat, played hockey for Natal, went overseas with the Proteas hockey tour and played tennis for Natal University. Their three children all excelled at hockey, gaining honours at school and then representing their provinces as well as their country at either tertiary or international level.

That is why sports enthusiasts trusted their salespeople, and introduced their children, who in turn introduced their children, to the Jacksons’ store.

Apart from selling specialised sports equipment for an extensive range of sports, they also restring rackets, supply new bladders for soccer balls and will even repair tennis nets. They will also make up sublimated sports clothing to order, including rugby, cricket, hockey and soccer kits, for teams and the individual. Customers can design their own kit and many clubs and schools have their sports kits made by Jackson Sports, under the Hawk brand.

“We pride ourselves on our service,” says (Peter) Jackson, “After 75 years it has built us a good customer base and the loyal support of the sporting community.”

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