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April 2007

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Reasons for Leotana Outdoor’s success

  • Leotana was founded when outdoor stores were still few and far between — and grew market share because customers trust their advice, based on knowledge as keen outdoor participants;

  • They were able to adapt with the changing market demands: first scaling down on watersport, and later increasing clothing and footwear stock that appeal to tourists;

  • Understanding your clients and their needs is very important, says Mostert. "It is a challenge to try and satisfy the needs of every client with the right product at the right price."

  • Customers must always feel that the staff are trying to assist them. "When we don’t have a specific item in stock, we offer to get it or suggest an alternative — even if we have to refer them to another store," says Mostert.

  • He appoints staff with the right attitude and personality: they must enjoy what they are doing and be interested in the activities represented by their stock.

  • Size does not count

    Surrounded by the Simonsberg, Jonkershoek and Helderberg mountains, populated by students keen on an active lifestyle and lately, a prime destination for tourists visiting the winelands, Stellenbosch offers the ideal location for a hiking and climbing store

    But, the location is only one of the reasons why a relatively small independent store in the platteland is considered to be one of South Africa’s leading outdoor retailers.

    The store is manned by people with a passion for the outdoors and stocked and owned by someone who has a critical eye for quality and the confidence to discard any item that does not meet his performance expectations. Customers therefore feel that they receive advice on purchases that they can trust.

    No wonder owner Chris Mostert believes that chain stores contribute to their success: instead of taking business away, the chains help to develop the market but because their staff do not all have the specialised knowledge, he gains customers.

    The history of Leotana Buitelewe/Outdoor begins twenty years ago when Vic Warrington, owner of the Windsports store in Cape Town, decided to open another watersport specialist branch in Stellenbosch. Chris Mostert, a windsurf enthusiast who was also studying towards a business degree at that stage, jumped at the opportunity to manage the Stellenbosch store. By the end of the year, the lure of the water was so strong that Mostert took over the store from Warrington.

    Next door, Dreyer Lötter had opened a hiking and camping store called Leotana, and it made good business sense to combine the two complementing businesses. At first they continued as separate entities, but about three years later in the early 1990s, Mostert bought Lötter’s shares and continued with Leotana as one business selling camping, hiking and watersport gear.

    With the popularity of windsurfing declining, the store also reduced the watersport stock and concentrated more on hiking, camping and lifestyle clothing, footwear and equipment.

    "Our premises are too small to do justice to a surfing section," says Mostert, but he maintains a well-stocked snorkelling and diving section.

    Like most modern sport and outdoor retailers, clothes are his main stock items and also the best sellers. This is especially popular amongst tourists who are delighted with the prices they can pay for well-known international clothing and footwear brand names. Crocs, for example, sell exceptionally well to tourists, who often buy a pair for each family member, says Mostert.

    In November, more than 50% of their sales were to tourists and once all the building to the surrounding shopping centre is completed, this is bound to increase even more.

    Rainy weather brings tourists flocking to the store to buy rain jackets — a bargain in euros or dollars — or souvenirs.

    But while the location, in the scenic Dorp Street where tourists are drawn by quaint stores and coffee shops, attracts customers, the downside of being in Stellenbosch is that sales reps no longer want to drive the 50km from Cape Town to visit him. He misses the old time reps who at least kept contact with their clients by sending Christmas cards and made appointments to visit the store.

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