The SPAR Group Is Geared for Further Growth in Southern Africa in 2024 – Adding 2,765 Jobs to the Region in 2023

By Max Oliva, CEO, The SPAR Group Southern Africa

South Africa’s economy may be stagnating, but at The SPAR Group Southern Africa, we are pressing forward and making major inroads into creating growth, opportunities, and jobs that are desperately needed.

Despite the challenges, which included long bouts of load shedding, tragic wars overseas impacting global supply chains, port chaos, and a crime epidemic, The SPAR Group in Southern Africa saw 104 new stores open in 2023, bringing the total number of stores in the region to 2,519 and adding more than 2,765 jobs to communities across the country.

The SPAR banner in Southern Africa includes access to entrepreneurial brands such as SUPERSPAR, KWIKSPAR, SPAR Express, SaveMor stores, SPAR’s emerging market grocery brand, TOPS at SPAR liquor offering, Pharmacy at SPAR, and Build it, our building materials brand.

What is remarkable about this growing network is that the model offers a home for independents, providing a network of retail peers and like-minded entrepreneurs. Our retailers’ stores are located in the communities we serve and are designed around convenience and shopper needs. Unemployment is South Africa’s biggest hindrance to a better future, and through our model, SPAR continues to help drive entrepreneurship – which will be the true catalyst to South Africa’s ultimate economic success by ensuring the inclusion of marginalised groups in the mainstream economy.

This vision is actively unfolding in our Lowveld region, evident through the opening of several new stores in 2023. SPAR’s commitment to serving outlying and rural communities – which has always been a strength of ours – is gaining significant momentum, and witnessing the progress being made is truly rewarding, especially when considering the number of jobs being added to the local economies.

In the Lowveld area, for instance, new stores included KWIKSPAR NELACRES, situated in a busy suburban area and employing 35 staff members who now serve the community with passion. We also opened a TOPS in Machadodorp, SPAR and TOPS Shikumba in Limpopo, 30 km from Giyani. Then there was a new SaveMor and SaveMor Liquor Praktiseer situated just outside Burgersfort and employing 24 people. Added to this was a Tops at SPAR at SUPERSPAR Crossings in the Crossings centre.

Further afield, we opened SUPERSPAR Matsapha (Eswatini), which is in an industrial area just outside of Manzini, employing as many as 117 people. KWIKSPAR MAU TSE TUNG also launched in Mozambique and is situated in the heart of Maputo in the Polana area and employs 42 staff members. In comparison, the new SPAR TETE CIDADE is situated in Mozambique between Malawi and Zimbabwe on the northern bank of the Zambezi River, employing 70 staff members.

In Southern Africa, we are encouraged to see the positive momentum that is building. Being part of the fabric of local communities remains pivotal, and it is important we maintain and accelerate this momentum into 2024.

Innovation will be key, and in 2023, we launched 269 new SPAR2U sites during the year, providing SPAR customers greater access to shopping on demand through their local SPAR. We also developed a new strategy for customer loyalty, and by year-end, we had six million customers registered for new card activations.

Of course, we will need to remain agile, competitive, and strategic. The consumer environment is still constrained, and load shedding is not abating. South Africa is also in an election year, and it is hoped that this will lead to renewal, especially on the policy front, where constructive economic change and support are desperately needed.

Among the challenges that SPAR has had to face is the stabilisation of the SAP IT system in KZN. The new system went live at the KZN distribution centre in February 2023, having caused significant disruption to this region over the past 12 months. The optimisation of SAP will be a key focus area for the business in the coming months, with significant strides already made.

In the past year, we also made significant progress in addressing price-perception challenges and dealing with inconsistency. A significant priority was the work done on our new multi-year advertising campaign, #SPARMoreForSho, to attract more customers into stores in a cohesive, fresh, and creative way.

Our merchandising, marketing, and omnichannel teams collaborate continuously to align key lines with one national pricing structure through our voluntary trading structure. During 2023, we experienced pockets of success with this strategy across certain lines. Through innovation and collaboration, we will also continue developing our private label range. In fact, SPAR’s private label strategy, under the banner of “as good as the best for less,” is well-placed to offer better value for shoppers.

It is important always to think of the bigger picture. We are supported by a network of supplier partners and service providers, and by collaborating closely with them, we will continue to source responsibly and do good.

Last year was a year of change, uncertainty, and challenges, but with so much promise and opportunity ahead, we are excited about what 2024 offers and look forward to continuing our growth journey.

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