Shoprite vs Pick n’ Pay: Who ever wins; we lose

By: Vula Mthimkhulu

The raging battle for market share in the retail sector is playing itself in my neck of the woods, the Kosmosdaal/Brooklands area in Centurion. Giants, Shoprite and Pick n’ Pay are slugging it out.

I’m really not sure if I’m liking the dust emerging from this though. You know what they say; when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. The competition theory remains just that, a theory.

Shoprite is positioned as the challenger and Pick n’ Pay has to defend as if reflecting the national picture. Remember that Pick n’ Pay was once the uncontested champion of South Africa’s retailing sector. The Ackerman Family controlled operation, Pick n’ Pay, dropped the ball in the early 2000s. Shoprite with the aggression of Christo Wiese and Whitey Basson grabbed the opportunity. Pick n’ Pay has brought in a British, Richard Brasher, former executive of the second largest retailing group in the world Tesco, to fight back.

The largest retailing group in the African continent, Shoprite, opened trading doors last week inside a new convenience shopping centre in Brooklands.  A mega Checkers outlet was launched on the corner of Rietspruit Road and Plane Thorn Crescent. Shoprite is to be flanked by about five or six shops including its liquor outlet. This fits into the broader Shoprite attack. Basson is moving at breakneck speed to keep the ‘No. 1 Supermarket’ tag.

Blue Valley Mall

The Blue Valley Mall anchored by Pick n’ Pay

In the year ended June 2013 Shoprite reported total sales of R92 billion up from R82 billion in 2012. This figure was shy of R60 billion in 2009. The 2013 Shoprite total sales figure of R92 billion compares to Pick n Pay’s R59 billion.

Shoprite has about 1740 stores spread across 17 African countries. The new Checkers outlet at the corner of Rietspruit Road and Plane Thorn Crescent is part of sustained growth.

My issue is; this corner (Rietspruit Road and Plane Thorn Crescent) was already suffering heavy congestion at peak hours before the launch of the convenience centre. Things can only get worse on the narrow Rietspruit Road, particularly for the residents of enclosed estates Brooklands 1 and The Cosmos who must now share the intersection located right at their entrance with traffic from the new centre. Someone was saying the residents will have the benefit of walking to the shops. I’m not sure if having a shopping centre at your door step is a benefit. I divert.

There is a Pick n’ Pay about 500 metres from the new Checkers centre. The fairly large Pick n’ Pay is located at the Blue Valley Mall. The neighbourhood centre featuring a medium sized Woolworths, Post Office, Pep, Wimpy, Steers is reasonably tenanted. In addition, Blue Valley Mall features about 15 mom and pop type shops. If I was one of these shopkeepers, I will be unsettled by the new development about 500m away. But then I know about retailing and shop-keeping as much as I know about rocket science.

What I know for sure is that I already had huge shopper reservations about Blue Valley Mall. Whenever there is a need for me to go to this centre I’m dissuaded by that narrow entrance and exit driveway and also the limited prime parking spots. The Checkers outlet is a stone throw away from me and all of Brooklands.

Rietspruit Road Checkers

Portion of the Rietspruit Road in Brooklands, CVenturion, which hosts the new Checkers

The new Checkers development has also come to intercept traffic originating from the other side, south of Samrand Road. You know who I’m talking about, the moneyed people from the upper north of Midrand. I know for a fact that a significant portion of these people,  including those from Country View and residence of the famous Blue Valley Golf & Country Estate and the opposite Valley View, come up for their shopping. They do this to avoid the congestion down south.

Some fellow residents are of the view that I should be happy because this Checkers development represents investment into the area that projects economic growth. But I see uncontrolled and undesirable development. For one, I think the City of Tshwane should have put as a condition to this development expansion of the roads. I do see space plenty of space which have accommodated road expansion But then I’m uneducated about what is really possible in this road.

I’m of the view that if the road expansion was not possible, the authorities should not have allowed a commercial development in this corner. I also suspect that we are served with uncontrolled development because captains of the mainstream retail sector do not want to share space. Ideally you wanted an extension of the Blue Valley Mall to accommodate Checkers there. But I suspect this thinking suffers because the so called anchor tenants like Shoprite and Pick n’ Pay are known to block entry of competition in centres they anchor. This is best reflected in the Cape Gate case, where Shoprite managed to block the entry of Game Stores into the centre. And so you have all these centres emerging all over the space to cause an urban sprawl.

Vula Mthimkhulu is a freelancer

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