By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
A little visit to South Africa at Kamfinsa was with high expectations for a shopping experience most Zimbabweans have enjoyed in the big Pick n Pay supermarkets down south. Alas, one comes away from the refurbished outlet asking oneself, what has changed apart from the brand and the paint work? Sadly, Pick n Pay has not quite cracked the egg, the hype and anticipation seem to have been misplaced, the phoenix is still in its embryo.
Pick n Pay sealed a deal with Thomas Meikle (TM) Supermarkets to maximise its shareholding in the local supermarket chain in December 2011, and has ventured into Zimbabwe to rebrand some of the TM Supermarket stores. This transaction involved much chicanery around Zimbabwe’s ludicrous indigenisation (chef 1 enrichment) laws.
The TM Supermarket situated in the small suburban shopping centre of Kamfinsa was the first to re-brand. Now understand this: shopping for the writer is a pain at the best of times… nothing worse than sauntering up and down the aisles, plopping your requirements into a trolley, and then standing in a long, disorderly queue to check out. Perhaps he is not best qualified to make the comment, but for what it is worth it is apparent that Pick n Pay were never too creative utilising the old store’s floor space; they possibly fumbled with their building contractors; and perhaps opened just a touch too soon.
Pick n Pay shops in South Africa have an open, welcoming, air about them. One might assume a critical success factor in the business may be to ensure customer flow. Roll them in; pack their trolleys; and check them out… far from this at suffering Kamfinsa. Clearly the layout of the new store is not too dissimilar from the old TM Supermarket branch. The store entrance is cluttered, the aisles are narrow and the till point experience is over-crowded, irritating and hardly different or refreshing. It seems like much wasted opportunity has befallen the chain – a little like Boffs 2 revisited.
There is much building work unfinished about the refurbished site. That will be completed, no doubt. The floor tiling about the shop and outside is a poor reflection on their building contractors, to say the least… a rush job, tiles unevenly placed, cracked, chipped and broken. On the perimeter all the usual signs of a building site… bricks stacks and a bit of rubble to boot. The parking area could do with better surfacing too, yet it seems to have just been done, clearly a cheap job.
The store is stocked well, in fact pumping with variety and with all the brands those Zimbabweans who venture south may be familiar with. In fairness to Pick n Pay, their handling and display of cold chain products is tops, in line with the best in the business. Regrettably, brand variety is not unique. Both the Spar and OK Zimbabwe groups are faring just as well. Two side stores, one which stocks clothing, and the other liquor, have been branded with the Pick n Pay trademark; one might guess victims of space constraints in the main complex. Both are well presented.
Of course, its early days yet, and one may assume the Pick n Pay brand will get into top gear soon, but frankly this visit was not quite as refreshing as the author had hoped for. Sure he got that ‘holiday feeling’ for a few minutes, but one hopes that when Pick n Pay venture onto the next rebranding project, supposedly TM Borrowdale, they will have put a little more thought into the process. They have few choices here: Pick n Pay has to come up to the expectation of the brand. Frankly, Kamfinsa does not quite achieve that.
1 Colloquial term referring to greedy politicians and people of influence on the gravy-train;
2 Boffs was a tiny and cramped supermarket bazaar opened in Borrowdale by late business mogul, Sam Levy back in the late 1970s.
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