Expanding to Botswana? Not a ‘crazy’ idea for South African retailer

Despite having a relatively small population of about 2.2 million people, in 2015 A.T. Kearney ranked Botswana as the second most attractive retail market in Africa. What the consulting firm found enticing about the country was its stable economy, supported by a strong diamond mining industry as well as sectors such as agriculture and tourism. It said although the retail environment is relatively saturated, the market as a whole is still growing.

Recently, South African discount variety retailer The Crazy Store announced its expansion into the country, with the opening of its first store at the Mowana Park shopping centre in the capital Gaborone expected later this month. The Crazy Store sells a wide spectrum of products, from toys to stationary, to kitchenware and books.

An extension of South Africa

A major reason behind the move, according to managing director Kevin Lennett, is Botswana’s similarities with South Africa when it comes to consumer behaviour and the retail sector. He said the country has a strong, stable middle class which is not that different from South Africa.

“It has got a great economy and similar consumer habits to what we have and what we know in South Africa… The most common retail sectors you’ll find there are clothing, accessories, food, drink, home and kitchen – and of course at The Crazy Store we can offer many of those sectors under one roof. So we feel it is a similar market and a similar consumer, and we are well-matched,” he explained.

He also highlighted comparable retail trends as in South Africa – be it demand for convenience or an increase of frugal spenders due to a subdued economic climate. A single strategy to capture customers’ wallets can therefore be applied in both markets.

The fact that Botswana borders South Africa, also makes it easy to transport goods from The Crazy Store’s home market.

“There is no store like us in Botswana – much like there isn’t really a store like us in South Africa. There are many people who sell different items… but we kind of bring it all together,” Lennett said.

Similarly to its strategy in South Africa, The Crazy Store aims to provide customers in Botswana with discounted prices close to their homes (partly the reason why it first opened shop in a neighbourhood shopping centre).

“We are speaking to all those families looking for affordable products, who want to spoil themselves, their kids, or whatever – but do that without breaking their budget and killing their disposable incomes.

“So for consumers it is all about getting in, buying what they need as quickly as possible, and having as pleasant an experience as possible,” he noted. “You can pop in and get little things that you needed rather than standing in a queue somewhere in a bigger store.”

Lennett also remarked that Botswana has a diverse shopping culture and offers international retailers diverse options for expansion. “It just makes sense – we should be present there,” he said.

What’s next?

“Our short term focus is absolutely on Botswana – get it right, do it right.”

Even though The Crazy Store has signed a second lease at the Airport Junction shopping centre – also in Gaborone – Lennett explained only once the company has captured the market with its first store, will it sign any further leases.

“It actually just comes back to the old concept of retail: we’ve got to get to understand the consumer as well as operations of their country, or the trends, or the things that work with that consumer in that country. So for us that’s why all of our focus is going to be on our first store and understanding how the consumer there shops, what their main concerns are, what their main likes are, what their desires and requests are and so on.

“One step at a time. But we are looking at Zambia and Mozambique. In other words, stores that are close to South Africa geographically.”