South Africa’s biggest retailers are looking at new profit avenues in a bid to recover from the devastating damage caused by coronavirus lockdown.

Shoprite chief executive Pieter Engelbrecht told Reuters that the retailer is looking branch out into mobile financial services via a new partnership with OUTsurance, offering funeral policies and even pet insurance.

Checkers has seen significant traction with its FreshX concept stores which were introduced as a way for the company to gain market share among more affluent South Africans,.

The idea is proving so popular that the group now plans to revamp at least a third of its Checkers stores to the new look in the medium term.

Checkers has also announced a new partnership with Starbucks which will see the coffee house and roastery chain launch outlets in select supermarkets.

The group has also launched pet insurance as well as additional banking facilities.

Woolworths chief executive Roy Bagattini told Reuters that the group intends to develop its own beauty brands and explore more convenience store formats.

Bagattini said that Woolworths also sees opportunities in the collapse of Edcon – once a major South African clothing retailer that is being sold off in pieces to competitors.

Woolworths has also announced a commitment to invest R1 billion in its prices over the next two to three years in a bid to make its products ‘more accessible to more customers’.

This will include a R750 million investment into pricing for its foods business, and R250 million in its fashion business.

“Over the last few years, we have been on a journey to invest in the prices of key product lines and categories to ensure we continue to provide our customers with the value they have come to expect from us,” said Woolworths SA chief executive Zyda Rylands.

“Because we know our customers are under pressure, we are investing even more in our prices to ensure we remain relevant and accessible, while not compromising on our quality.”

Rylands said that the first phase will focus on a R250 million price investment planned in the foods business and R250 million in the fashion business for this financial year. The investment is being focussed on the most popular Woolworths products.

In foods, this includes the entire fresh chicken range such as all whole and portion chicken packs, excluding Easy to Cook, crumbed and marinated chicken.

“While this investment will initially be most visible in our poultry products, we have also applied more promotions on everyday basics across groceries, household and personal care to be more affordable to more customers,” said Rylands.

In fashion, the investment will be in selected key wardrobe essentials, she said.

Pick n Pay 
Pick n Pay recently concluded an agreement to purchase on-demand, online grocery service Bottles. Bottles was launched in 2016 as an alcohol on-demand delivery app, and partnered with Pick n Pay in 2018.

Pick n Pay Online covers all major centres across South Africa with 800,000 registered users.

Following the prohibition on the sale of alcohol in March, Bottles re-purposed its app to deliver on-demand grocery essentials to customers.

Since its move to groceries at the end of March, the app has reached more than 700,000 downloads, and 350,000 registered users.  The service offers over 7,000 products at store prices, with an average delivery time of 90 minutes, Pick n Pay said.

The group has also extended the banking facilities available at tills and hinted at the introduction of a mobile phone service.