The Crazy Store, SA’s largest discount variety chain, ended a successful 2015 having opened a record number of stores last year, thanks to growing consumer demand.
It’s a phenomenal local retail success story despite of the sluggish economy: the group opened 27 stores during 2015. With a current footprint of 276 stores across the country, at least another 20 stores are scheduled to open this year.
“Part of the reason for our accelerated growth last year was our ability to adapt to consumer demand by converting an offering of over 4 000 products into innovative smaller-format stores with 1700 products. This allowed us to increase our footprint and the availability to the market of our most successful lines,” says MD Kevin Lennett.
In the past two decades, while other brands have come and gone, or are barely surviving, The Crazy Store, which this year celebrates its 19th year of trading, has been able to build on its success and solidify the brand’s reputation and presence in the homes of South Africans across all walks of life.
“We believe the secret of our success has been our ability to find the perfect balance between price and quality,” says Lennett.
“Furthermore, continuing economic tough times have helped, rather than hurt, our growth,” he adds.
Lennett notes there has been a marked shift in the attitudes of particularly higher LSM consumers, who in the past would balk at admitting they shopped at budget stores or scored a bargain.
“Previously, many mid-to-higher LSM consumers would brag about their expensive purchases or their latest brand haul. These days, the talk around dinner tables is about smart purchases made at competitive prices,” he says.
The Crazy Store group employs around 2 410 people in South Africa and Namibia.
Lennett says the company’s original vision remains unchanged: to provide a wide variety of goods – currently the average Crazy Store stocks 4 000 different items at any given time – ranging from day-to-day essentials to novelty products, which are not brand-sensitive. This allows the removal of the middle man and the ability to keep prices in check while not compromising on quality.
“Lately, the convenience factor also plays a major role in our success. As our stores began to proliferate near FMCG outlets, consumers started finding it increasingly easy to pop in and purchase items of similar quality but at lower prices, and without having to stand in queues.”
Lennett says there is a global movement of people “shopping down” and it is no longer something that consumers try to hide.
“Consumers have become savvier, and they are happy to shop smart, as the success of similar stores internationally shows. Because of easier access to information via social media and price check sites, consumers are also well aware of the value of items, and they are not prepared to settle for uncompetitive prices.”
And in a country where equality remains one of the nation’s biggest challenges, The Crazy Store has managed to cut across class divides, boasting a loyal clientele from all races and income groups.
“We have made it possible for anyone to make their home their castle, by providing access to the little things that all homes need – whether it be for functional or aesthetic purposes – at a price that is accessible to more people than anyone else is able to provide.
“We have achieved big success and acquired a huge, loyal customer base to whom we are accountable.”
He says the biggest lesson from The Crazy Store’s success to prospective entrepreneurs is that they have to be able to constantly evolve, and realise their product offering is everything.
“No matter how great the people in your company are, or how sterling your service, if your product is not up to scratch you will not get the feet through your door. And when you do get a great product offering, start preparing to up the ante.”
“You can’t think you will sell the same items in perpetuity. You need to constantly change, add value, and new offerings to keep your customers interested.”
It is also important to be consistent, and invest time and money back into the business and particularly its people, Lennett says.
“It is no good growing and then putting the money elsewhere. It must go back into your business, by modernising, updating and making the customer experience more enjoyable.”
Despite the tough economic climate, Lennett is confident the group is firmly on track to reach 300 stores within the next year, reconfirming their position as a large National Retailer who is able to continue to delight a growing loyal customer base.