Congress to unpack retail success

[Image] This year’s World Retail Congress Africa will be held in the continent’s economic hub, Johannesburg.
(Image: Brand South Africa)

[Image] Professor David Block, was one of four astronomers who studied the Hypatia pebble.
(Image: World Retail Congress)

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MediaClub South Africa reporter

More than 250 retail leaders from across the world will meet in Johannesburg at the World Retail Congress Africa, to be held from 4 to 6 November, to discuss, debate and define the future of retail on the continent.

The World Retail Congress Africa is new to sub-Saharan Africa, created in response to the rapidly changing and diversifying marketplaces on the continent. It is anticipated that it will go straight to the heart of retail opportunities, and that speakers will look at servicing and understanding the new African consumer across new channels in new markets. They will also provide global retail intelligence, with an Africa market focus.

No other continent offers the same growth potential for retailers as Africa. Faced with limited population growth and sluggish economies at home, many American and particularly European retailers are expanding into emerging markets in the hope of finding growth opportunities. But competition is intense in the large markets of China and Brazil, prompting many to look elsewhere to gain an advantage. Africa is a good place to look: although traditional forms of retailing are still dominant on the continent, a growing middle class is demanding branded products and the opportunity to shop in modern retail formats.

Africa’s main challenges, however, lie in its enormous size and diversity: Africa is not one country. A thorough understanding of local cultures, beliefs, customs, economics, and practices is necessary for success. With this in mind, the World Retail Congress Africa agenda will focus on specific country case studies to help participants identify the opportunities, and grow their business based on successful examples across the continent.

For African groups to expand their presence, they must build brands underpinned by local insights that motivate African consumers while delivering on a global standard.

Stakeholders in the sector are encouraged to attend the congress. Effective and prosperous businesses in the most promising countries will explain how they have changed their business models through understanding consumer trends. More than 40 sessions have been planned for the two-day congress, covering a variety of topics, such as:

$1·         The informal versus formal retail economy – financing retail development and roll-out through domestic financing, and funding from Brics members and the West;

$1·         Identifying sustainable growth markets – market insight and chief executive officer case studies from Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa;

$1·         Online consumers – introducing the online, mobile, connected African consumer and new retail opportunities;

$1·         Entering African retail successfully – business models, including joint ventures, franchises, and acquisitions, and market conditions for launch and expansion; and,

$1·         Delivering best practice operational excellence and supply chain management to exceed customer expectations.

More than 60 speakers, all leaders in their fields, have been confirmed. They will bring personal and continent-wide insights on successfully adapting to a changing marketplace. They include:

$1·         Steve Hammett, president – retail at Al Futtaim, United Arab Emirates (Marks & Spencer);

$1·         David Kneale, chief executive, Clicks Group;

$1·         Therese Gearhart, president South Africa, Coca-Cola;

$1·         Paula Disberry, group planning head, Woolworths;

$1·         Jonathan Ciano, chief executive, Uchumi;

$1·         Jeremy Hodara, managing director, jumia.com.ng;

$1·         Sullivan O’Carroll, chairman and managing director South Africa, Nestlé;

$1·         Bill Paladino, chief executive internet, MIH, Naspers Africa (including Kalahari.com);

$1·         Andre Farber, executive vice president, Grupo Boticário;

$1·         Yaw Nsarkoh, managing director East and South Africa, Unilever;

$1·         Suzanne Ackerman, transformation director, Pick n Pay; and,

$1·         Mncane Mthunzi, group head – Africa food retail and supplier development, Massmart.

Success stories in particular nations will also be unpacked:

● Angola: How can one conduct business successfully in Angola? What are the business models that are working? The Angola country session will hear from Grupo Boticário, which after more than 35 years of successful franchising in Brazil, is considered the largest point of sale network in cosmetics and fragrances in the world. In Angola, a well-financed country, it sells to the international consumer base at the heart of the country’s oil economy. The session will look at what changes it effected to remain locally minded and sensitive to the needs of its growing consumer groups. Speakers: Nicolas Borrero Pabon, international business unit manager, and Andre Farber, executive vice-president, Grupo Boticário

● Botswana: As one of the leading supermarket brands in Botswana, Choppies addresses the one to three level consumer in Africa. The brand is now in neighbouring countries, including South Africa. Botswana itself has been identified by AT Kearney’s Global Retail Development Index as the top sub-Saharan African country for retail business. This session will look at what it means to address the bottom of the pyramid consumer now and the potential in the sector. Speaker: Ramachandran Ottapathu, chief executive, Choppies

● Egypt: The Al-Futtaim Group, founded over 70 years ago, is one of the most respected corporations in the lower Gulf and North Africa. It operates more than 65 companies across diverse retail sectors, including Ikea, Marks & Spencer, Toys R’ Us, Robinsons and Guess. Despite its recent political instability, Egypt is a lucrative market when you manage to get it right. Learn how Marks & Spencer in Egypt has managed to survive and thrive in this environment. Speaker: Steve Hammett, president – retail, Al Futtaim (Marks & Spencer)

● Kenya: As the largest retailer in East Africa, including Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, Nakumatt is still expanding into the wider region and plans to add internet shopping to its direct-to-consumer platforms. Find out how to deliver retail experiences to 41 million people and how to prioritise markets for expansion. Speaker: Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, director of strategy and operations, Nakumatt

● Nigeria: Nigeria’s online retail industry is on the rise more so than any other African country. What makes the conditions right in this country to set up and grow your online business? How can online retail businesses survive and negotiate the existing offline challenges of getting product to market? This session will look at funding, accessing core online consumers vis-a-vis mobile network development, and remaining innovative and relevant as new physical and online competition hits the commercial sphere. Speaker: Sim Shagaya, chief executive, Konga.com

● South Africa: One of the largest retailers in Africa, Woolworths is a South African chain that extends, through franchise partnerships, throughout Africa and into the Middle East, trading through more than 400 outlets. How does Woolworths split its approach to the rest of Africa’s markets and non-grocery strategy, where supply chain complexities exist? This session will look at best practice in sourcing, trending and keeping the customer at heart. Speaker: Paula Disberry, group director retail operations and international, Woolworths.