Shoprite to take on Woolies

As South Africa slides into recession, the No1 supermarket group, Shoprite, is adopting an unlikely strategy: it is pushing upmarket. While the lower-income families that have long been its core customers cut back, the spending of the wealthier class remains undented by the downturn.

February 12, 2016: The Woolworths Store in Rosebank Mall. Johannesburg. Picture: Daylin Paul

In a bid to retain its leading industry position, the discount retailer’s new boss is driving hard into the upmarket, higher-margin niche dominated by rival Woolworths.

The stage is set for a turf war to win the hearts, minds and wallets of South Africa’s richest 2 million households.

Shoprite CEO Pieter Engelbrecht said affluent areas and customers were where he saw growth.

“A lot of those [wealthier] customers, 2million of them, actually frequent our stores already, but not exclusively,” he said. “Our job is to get a better share of their wallets when they are in our stores.”

Shoprite is doubling its offering of the kind of high-end convenience foods that Woolworths has built its reputation on – from gourmet lamb shanks and oxtail stew to teriyaki-and-ginger basted pork ribs. Its range will reach around 500 products by the end of this year, Engelbrecht said.

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