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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- While fundamentally different to European, American and other international markets, South Africa's retail sector has a surprising number of similarities to those markets as well. South African retail operators have closely studied international retail trends over the years, learned from them, mirrored the best and built on it.
This continued benchmarking has allowed the market to develop at a fast pace. As a result, South African operators have been able to accelerate their learning curve and time invested in development, according to a report by Insight's Global Convenience Store Focus.
Consequently, the South African retail industry has developed into a sophisticated, competitive and world-class retail market, the report noted.
In early February, London-based Insight's retail study tour provided delegates with an introduction and overview of the convenience retail landscape in South Africa.
The tour included visits to a cross section of c-stores, forecourt operators and larger-format, franchised supermarkets, plus a guided tour of the world's largest Spar distribution center in Johannesburg and its in-house retail design and development studio.
In addition to the site visits, there was a series of presentations from the leading fuel and c-store operators and a chance to meet with senior executives and management from these organizations.
The tour began in Johannesburg, the financial heart of South Africa, with an insightful overview of the market and economy from the director of retail services for Nielsen SA. Store visits included a world-class Spar supermarket, two-time winner of Spar SA Store of the Year award, and a meeting with store owners and operators; followed by a site visit to a newly rebuilt Engen Woolworths forecourt site.
The joint venture is similar to the one between BP and Marks & Spencer in the UK. In South Africa Engen is the leading fuel retailer and Woolworths is a market leader in fresh food and convenience retail.
Hosted by representatives from both Engen and Woolworths, the site visit was extremely interactive and provided a clear understanding of the dynamics of the partnership.
The Johannesburg tour also featured a presentation from the head of convenience retail for SASOL (South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corp.), followed by a visit to one of its latest forecourt c-stores. SASOL is a South African company involved in mining, energy, chemicals and synfuels.
After Johannesburg the tour headed west to Cape Town, where delegates viewed some of the forecourt c-store developments and joint ventures in the market. These included an impressive Pick n Pay c-store in Tokia and a Fresh Stop Caltex joint venture in Blouberg Strand.
For more details and photos from the South African market study tour, visit Insight's Global Convenience Store Focus.