Not detracting but re-investing
The perception that Spar, which consists of a chain of retail stores, is taking money out of Namibia is wrong as each Spar store is individually-owned by Namibians who re-invest in the country, says Johan Mostert, regional buyer at Spar Namibia.
“The money stays in Namibia, it does not go to South Africa. We are also part of Team Namibia. Many people think that we only buy our products from South African manufacturers. We do get some of our stock from South Africa, but we support local manufacturers. For example, we buy our maize and pasta from Namib Mills, our dairy products come from Namibia Dairies and Clover Namibia,” Mostert said.
Another perception that Spar is more expensive than other retailers, is also devoid from truth, he emphasised.
Prices differ from store to store as the retailers have price promotions at different times; where as you pay N$18.99 for 500g Kellogs at one retailer, you pay N$19.99 for Bokomo at another, Mostert explained.
He said Spar does not have promotions at the same time as other retailers which might be perpetuating the belief that the franchise is more expensive than other retailers.
“Given this, our prices are on average cheaper than the other stores. In the past, Spar’s known value items – things that people buy everyday – were expensive so it has also been difficult to change this perception,” Mostert told the Economist.
Spar Namibia also conducts monthly surveys as well as quarterly surveys which are conducted by a South African company in order to ensure that the stores stay competitive, he further said.
“We try to cater for every one. We are creating an experience. When a person walks into a Spar shop, the atmosphere must be of such a nature that they love it. Spar is there for Namibians, people just have to go to Spar shops to experience it. Unlike other retailers, the Spar owners are always available; you can talk to them, you can raise complaints directly. Basically, you can build a relationship with them,” said Mostert.
In order to operate under the Spar brand name, shop owners have to comply with all Namibian laws regarding health regulations, taxes and personnel issues – including minimum wages and union membership. Two audits are also done annually by a South African based company, Q Pro, to ensure that the Spar retail stores comply with hygiene and quality standards.
“The audits are very thorough and you need to score more than 60% to pass. I have to say, most of our stores score 75% and upwards. Our standards are very high,” Mostert continued.
Spar Namibia also employs regional operation managers who assist the different branches in staff matters, analyse business opportunities and operations as well as assist with technical matters.
Currently, there are 27 Spar stores in Namibia and plans are under way to open two more.