Despite experiencing an African summer Christmas, shoppers in South Africa still seem to prefer decorations in the country’s shopping malls to hark back to a cold and snowy European-style winter wonderland. An article published last week by the international news website, ‘Quartz Africa’, ponders the seasonal disparity between Northern and Southern Hemisphere Christmases and the vexing question for SA mall managers as to what constitutes appropriate festive season decorations – given that most customers would never have experienced snow, never mind sleigh bells and reindeer. “Even as the country’s consumer base has become more diverse and sophisticated, Western visions of Christmas still appear to be a huge draw to the country’s multitude of malls,” observes the publication. “For mall managers, this wholehearted embrace of ‘atmospherics’, or the Western-perfected practice of using decor, sound and smells to put people in the mood to shop, has taken on an even greater importance during an economic downturn that is seeing consumers adopt more measured, rather than merry, shopping habits.” Jan Griesel, co-owner of a specialist decorating business The Magic Christmas Co, says there has been a growing effort in the last 15 years to recognise local traditions. These range from using Ndebele tribal prints to replace ribbon, a giant baobab tree instead of a fir tree, and handmade wire reindeer, sheep, and cows. “What we’re trying to do is incorporate more local people to produce more local things, so we can put it together in one statement,” he tells ‘Quartz Africa’. But while some malls have tried to find a balance between African and Western traditions, it seems the white Christmas approach is here to say, the publication reports. Even though malls might be catering for more diverse communities, religions and races, “… there is an expectation for beautiful, traditional stuff,” Vanessa Fourie, Brand Manager at the new Mall of Africa, says.
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While Christmas still seems a long way away for many people, Facebook is suggesting that marketers should be aware of the growing influence of this social media platform on Festive Season shopping patterns in South Africa. According to a study due to be published next week by Facebook, 51% of South Africans surveyed said the platform was influential in their holiday shopping decisions – higher than the global average of 47%. In addition, 26% said they used Facebook for gift inspiration and shopping ideas (versus the global average of 20%) and 22% of surveyed South Africans said they used Facebook to seek advice from others about gifting (versus 20% global average). In all, the survey – conducted in conjunction with specialist research company Ipsos – questioned 21 000 adults across 17 countries, including SA. Among the global findings were that Millennials (those aged around 18-34) were nearly 1,5 times more likely than the average of other surveyed generations to use Facebook for gift inspirations. Similarly, they were more than three times more likely to turn to Instagram for Christmas present ideas. The researchers also found that the US tradition of taking advantage of Black Friday (the Friday after the Thanksgiving Day holiday in November, when retailers traditionally sell their merchandise at massive discounts) is now becoming an international phenomenon. An average of 26% of people from around the world said they now shopped on Black Friday, while in Brazil that figure reached almost 50%. In South Africa, 36% of those surveyed said they took advantage of Black Friday sales.
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Pokémon Go, the mobile game that’s taking the world by storm, is turning out to be a massive tool for marketers. Only a week after launch, the game has around 65-million users in the US alone and its parent company, Nintendo, has seen its market value increase by US$7-billion. In the augmented reality game, players walk around real-life neighbourhoods to hunt down and capture virtual cartoon characters on their smartphone screens. It draws on the original Pokémon games of the 1990s. According to a report published yesterday (Wednesday) by Reuters news agency, the game is already helping local restaurants, coffee shops and small retailers in the US to attract new customers. “[A] pizza bar in New York claims its sales jumped 75% over the weekend by activating a ‘lure module’ feature that attracts virtual Pokémon characters to the store, thereby tempting in nearby players. The store's manager spent US$10 to have a dozen Pokémon characters placed in the location,” Reuters said. Meanwhile, in the historic small town of McKinney in Texas, the local business promotions co-ordinator dedicated his monthly meeting with store owners to educating them on how best to take advantage of the game’s popularity. Small retailers can buy Pokémon Go Lures for as for little as US$1.19 an hour to drive foot traffic. ‘Ad Week’, a marketing industry magazine, has reported that businesses will also soon be able to sponsor their own Pokémon Go locations, which will be another way to encourage foot traffic from people playing the game. “Pokémon Go essentially breaks down the wall between technology and real-world experience. So, as brands drive people into new locations, there’s a real opportunity for them to do more ambient marketing that isn't exclusively digital,” said Jamie Gallo, President of digital agency Wunderman New York
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Africa is an “untapped opportunity” for global coffee chain Starbucks, according to its Chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz. In a recent interview with broadcaster CNN, he predicted the brand would move into other parts of the continent following its successful launch in South Africa in April. “I think Nigeria will be at some point an interesting opportunity for us … I can't talk about specific markets, but we are a growth company,” he said. “Think about the growth we've had over the years – [we are] sitting with 24 000 stores in 71 countries. Africa is an untapped [prospect].” Schultz added: “I look at the opportunity here, which is really [unexploited], to significantly add to the revenue and gross margin of the company.” Looking to the future and the potential expansion of Starbucks across Africa, Schultz told CNN: “These are early days. We’ve got to earn the right and we have to earn respect. I'm very optimistic about the emerging middle class in Africa.” Responding to a question about the brand’s lower pricing strategy in South Africa (prices start from around US$1,20), he said it was the right decision to make the product accessible to as many Africans as possible. Starbucks was building for the long term and not concerned about managing the profit margin in the early stages. Coffee culture is on the rise in Africa and the company anticipates opening upwards of 150 outlets in South Africa alone.
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Once a place of cosy competition between well-established local players, South Africa’s clothing retail sector has now become a battleground of sassy international newcomers taking on the old guard. For decades, local clothing retailers were largely isolated from foreign competition. But, despite belt-tightening by consumers, this comfortable situation is changing fast as more players enter the market, reports the ‘IMM Journal of Strategic Marketing’ in its latest April-May 2016 issue. The country has become the new hunting ground for growing numbers of big-name global players eager to stake their claim in a clothing market with annual sales of R180-billion. It is a change local fashion retailers do not take lightly. “There is no doubt foreign retailers represent a major threat,” says Ian Moir, CEO of Woolworths. He is one of those who has taken his company offshore to ensure diversification of revenue streams and lessen the impact of increased competition at home. Precisely how many foreign clothing retailers have entered South Africa is unclear. But an analysis of media coverage indicates the number is beyond 20. For local clothing retailers, the real challenge is coming from mass-market heavyweights. Not least among them is newcomer Hennes & Mauritz, trading as H&M. H&M is also one of the world’s most aggressive clothing retailers when it comes to growing its footprint. In 2015 its store numbers grew by 413 to 3 924 outlets and will expand by another 425 outlets in 2016. “H&M is a massive business and a massively capable one,” Moir tells the magazine. “It represents a bigger threat than Zara.” Moir has good reason to sound a warning about H&M. “We are going to be big in South Africa,” says Pär Darj, H&M’s Country Manager. “SA has a large number of fashion stores and, where there is a big interest in fashion, that’s where H&M wants to be.” The retailer signalled it means business when, in October 2015, it opened its first local store, in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. Interestingly, the store receives high praise from opposing CEO Doug Murray, who heads up The Foschini Group (TFG). “It is extremely impressive and is probably the best store H&M has anywhere in the world,” he observes. Published five times a year by the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM), the magazine is available in print and digital formats and is read by professional marketers and those working in related fields, business executives, IMM alumni and IMM Graduate School students. The print edition is on sale at selected CNA and Exclusive Books outlets, or available via subscription.
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Is this a campaign that Woolworths could emulate in South Africa? A cow named Mo wearing a Go-Pro camera mounted on her collar will take centre stage today (Friday) in an unusual live-streamed ad campaign by a UK supermarket chain. The aim is to emphasise to consumers that the milk, cream and eggs it sells come from a healthy, free-range environment in which the animals are well cared for. “The idea is part of a landmark initiative by Waitrose to reveal how its farmers care for their animals,” reports the ‘Daily Mail’ newspaper. “The company will also be streaming live images from its own farm, Leckford Estate, in [the county of] Hampshire, to big screens at some of the UK’s busiest railway stations, including Waterloo [in London]. From dawn to dusk, commuters will be able to watch live footage from three different locations on the farm.” Footage captured by Mo and her lightweight camera will also be used in TV commercials that will be filmed, edited and shown all on the same day. Similarly, a print-based advertising campaign will use images of real farms and will have been taken only 24 hours before publication. The Waitrose chain operates more than 300 supermarkets across Britain and says the campaign is in response to demand from customers for quality food and reassurance that the produce they are buying is of high quality and sourced ethically. “We’ve always been proud of where our food comes from, and the care and commitment our farmers and suppliers put into producing it,” says Marketing Director Rupert Thomas.
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Competition in the South African retail environment has arguably never been as fierce as it is now, and as shopping centres spring up across the country and new products and brands regularly arrive to compete with the more established names, consumers are spoilt for choice. For retail marketers, reports the February-March 2016 issue of the ‘IMM Journal of Strategic Marketing’, the challenge is to grab the attention of easily distracted shoppers and grasp their share of the estimated R700-billion being spent on retail sales in SA annually. According to David R. Bell, a Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business in the US, given that around 20% of in-store purchases are unplanned and impulsive, it makes sense to try to influence consumers while they’re out shopping. But this is also where many marketing mistakes are made, warns Sandra Steenkamp, Mystery Shopping and Quality Assurance Manager at Johannesburg-based BMi Research. “In-store promotions can go a long way towards persuading a consumer to make a purchase, but there are factors that could also put a potential customer off – poor product knowledge or inadequate presentation, for example,” she tells the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) magazine. “In today’s market you have just one shot at impressing and convincing a customer, and a negative perception of a brand could cause a lot of damage; just one customer can influence a large number of people on social media, so a brand really cannot afford to leave anything to chance.” Kirsten Mercer, Business Unit Head at ProActive, a specialist brand activation agency, believes the first step to achieving a successful activation is to ask two questions: Who is the target audience and what is the objective of the promotion? She says in-store promotions are useful for introducing a new product, product variant or pack size, as well as driving sales of an existing product or growing the overall customer base. While every client’s ultimate objective is getting return on investment, activations need not necessarily be about hard sales and can also be a mechanism to drive awareness, encourage product sampling or attract first-time visitors to the store.
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A women’s clothing boutique in suburban Johannesburg is gaining international attention for its initiative that does away with traditional sizing on clothes for larger women. Instead, it uses colour coding in an effort to save its large-sized customers embarrassment. Hayley Joy, an outlet in the suburb of Dunkeld, has received media coverage for its groundbreaking initiative at African Fashion Week in London, via the Nigerian-based Bellanaija online magazine, and most recently through BBC News. According to the BBC report, South African fashion designer Hayley-Joy Weinberg was asked to cut off the labels on her clothes by numerous customers who had asked their husbands to collect their orders. “It was a problem to them that someone else would see what size they wore and I completely understood it,” she said. “There is a stigma against big woman.” Her solution was to replace the international-standard size labels of ‘XL’, ‘XXL’ etc with a system that does not stigmatise her clients and is based on colours and shapes. So a ‘2XL’ size, for example, is a ‘pink heart’ and a ‘3XL’ is a ‘turquoise bow’. Weinberg has her own studio where the larger-sized garments are made, but says that the fashion industry has failed to evolve from its ‘contempt’ for larger women. “No-one knows what to do about the fat woman,” she told the BBC. “It's like fat women don't exist when we all they know do.” According to the African Fashion Week London website, Weinberg first allocated only colours to the various sizes. “Then one morning at 3am, which is when my brain tends to decide to have its real moments, I woke with absolute clarity; I needed to have coloured labels with shapes,” she said. “This would then mean that clients, instead of referring to their size as a 2XL, would become a pink heart. It made perfect sense to me [as a] a plus-size woman and would now make sense to my clients [as well].”
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South Africans have long since embraced the American custom of Halloween. Now, it seems, we’re enthusiastically taking on the tradition of Black Friday sales as well. The day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the US (celebrated today, Thursday the 26th), it is the biggest single shopping day in America and the time when retailers enter the ‘black’ (profit) after being in the ‘red’ (loss). In South Africa, a host of retailers are embracing Black Friday tomorrow and offering consumers a range of discounts. Among them is retail giant Checkers, which is cutting prices on selected items by 50% and has also teamed up with taxi operator Uber to offer 1 000 shoppers free rides to and from Checkers stores to participate in the sale. “In 2014 we served more than one million customers on Black Friday. This year we have even more deals on offer, on everyday products that were selected with our customers' shopping needs in mind,” says Neil Schreuder, Marketing Director for Checkers. The company claims to have been the first retailer to bring the Black Friday concept to South Africa. Other local retailers offering special deals on the day include Specsavers, Toys R Us, Hi-Fi Corporation, Pick n Pay and online retailers Groupon, Zando and Bidorbuy. Vehicle retailer McCarthy says it is also offering discounts of up to R80 000 on selected models. Black Friday sales have become more frenzied than ever in recent years and spread to countries such as Canada, Britain and Nigeria. Competition for shoppers’ money has become tougher too, with some industry observers calling it the “most important event of the year for [American] marketers”. Shopping hours in the US have changed as well, partly as a result of pressure from online retailers, who tend to be less concerned about opening and closing times than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts. Where once long queues of customers waited for shop doors to open at 6am, some retailers open for business at midnight or even late on Thanksgiving Day in an effort to attract as many shoppers as possible.
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Monday, 28 September 2015 11:43

Foschini group plans more African expansion

South African-based fashion and apparel chain The Foschini Group (TFG) is to increase its presence in other parts of Africa, with at least 10 new stores being opened in Kenya by the end of the first quarter of 2016. Quoting group CEO Doug Murray at a media briefing given on Wednesday, ‘Business Day’ newspaper said one of the key aims of the African expansion strategy was to achieve sufficient scale so that products made outside SA could be shipped directly to other African countries rather than first having to be imported into South Africa and then be re-shipped. “Right now we bring it in to our distribution centres in SA, pay duty then send it out to African countries and pay more duty. We then have to reclaim the duty we pay in SA; it’s very cumbersome,” Murray said. TFG includes retail outlets such as Foschini, Total Sports, Markham, American Swiss and Sterns. In the South African market it is also the biggest reseller of Adidas and Nike sports products. Outside SA, it currently has about 160 stores in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Botswana and Swaziland. It plans to grow this number to 375 by 2020.
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© 2015 by African Marketing Confederation