ImageRetailers narrowly beat their competitors to win South Africa’s top shopping outlet spot at The Times and Sowetan 2009 Retail Awards, which in its second year has broadened its scope to go beyond Gauteng and become a national survey. The hotly-contested Awards, which proved that the retail environment is highly competitive with small differences in ratings, took place on 8 October, and were fittingly staged in a retail wonderland at Northgate Ice Rink.

“The retail sector is particularly feeling the pinch with the current recession, and therefore, we felt it was critical to expand the survey and provide over 30 retail categories across the country with valuable insights into how they are ranked by consumers in this fiercely competitive environment,” says Enver Groenewald, Avusa Media General Manager: Advertising Revenue and Strategic Communications.
“To presently keep ahead of competitors and get a bigger share of consumer spend retailers need to strongly market what makes their offering more unique and come up with creative ways to add more value to clients. To assist retailers to better promote themselves to our readers we have created the weekly Clever Shopper pages in both The Times and Sowetan, which includes a Q & A with a shop outlet.”

The 2009 Retail Awards saw quite a shake-up of winners in the different categories. This was due to new category splits and changes; extended coverage of the study; and an innovative research study conducted by TNS Research Surveys to ensure more niche outlets were included, which is in line with the new emphasis worldwide that specialist stores also form an integral part of the consumers’ shopping experience.

This year the Grand Prix Award was the most coveted and was based on the scores of all the retail brands measured, regardless of category. It was easily won by KFC, which also dominated the fast food chicken category. Edgars came in second place, with Shoprite in the third position.

Another big award on the night was for the Overall Grocery Shopping Award that took the four key retail attributes of quality; range; service; and value into account.

Pick ‘n Pay was crowned the winner by virtue of exceptional scores for quality; range; and service, while Shoprite took the second spot for a much-better-than-average score for good value. Checkers was third and Woolworths fourth for their image of offering very good quality.

“There were generally smaller differences in ratings amongst users of the various retailers than we saw in the recent Sunday Times Top Brands study, which used the same methodology,” explains Neil Higgs, Director for innovation and development at TNS Research Surveys.

“Clearly, there is fierce competition between retailers – but there is also an opportunity, in line with the new emphasis on the shopper (as distinct from the consumer or end-user), for retailers to re-look their whole shopper environment and shopper experience in an effort to differentiate themselves from competitors.”

In the new categories, retailers that won the hearts and minds of South African shoppers included Tops at Spar for retail liquor chain; Trade Centre as the top wholesaler; Spur easily won the fast food burger category and family sit-down restaurant; while Mugg and Bean is the best place to grab a cup of coffee.

One of the most desirable awards was for best exclusive brand store, which was won by Levi’s, followed by La Coste and Uzzi. As everyone knows, a girl can never have too many shoes, so one of the major shifts on the night in the existing categories included Nine West and Green Cross pushing out Shoe City and Bata for the top three shoes stores, with Spitz grabbing the top spot. Another exciting development saw Maponya Mall steal third position for leading Gauteng shopping centre over last year’s two East Rand contenders.

Favourite outlets that are once again dominant winners include Edgars; Woolworths; and Truworths in clothing, with specialist sport and outdoor retailers, Total Sports; Sport Scene; and Nike winners again, and Game; Hi-Fi Corporation; and Makro the top shops for electronics and gadgets.