Friday, September 22, 2023

Choppies takes one step closer to becoming a department store

The newest addition of clothing into the aisles of the mass grocery retailer, Choppies, now sees the supermarket becoming a fully fledged ‘department store.’ 

By definition, a department store refers to a retailer which offers a wide array of respective consumer goods that fall under different product categories, hence the term departments. This retailing practice derives its roots from the 19th century, a time in which the Industrial revolution came to the fore. It is observed in countries such as USA, France and Britain. The departments are divided into various aisles of home appliances, toiletries, clothing, cosmetics and furniture to mention but a few, and Choppies by extension fits into this description. It could come to be known as the first indigenous department store. If successful, Choppies will join the same league as the Australian retail giant, Woolworths and South Africa’s discount retailer, Game in offering general merchandise across a wide product range. 

A few months ago in July Ramachandran Ottapathu, one of the Director of Choppies and also its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), submitted a proposal to the Competition Authority (CA) through his own company, BlueHearts to acquire Warbler Holdings (Pty). Warbler is a holding company for IT4Africa (Pty) Ltd, Goldtech (Pty) Ltd, Healthwest Africa (Pty) Ltd and Solid Logistics (Pty) Ltd, identified as the target enterprises. IT4Africa is a wholesaler and supplier of Computers; Cell phones; Tablets and accessories; Anti-virus and Security software products; Mobile Phones; Air-cons; Printers; Projectors; Scanners  and Accessories of which trade in brand names such as Acer Computers; eScan; Hisense; Epson; Lexmark; and Samsung. Goldtech Holdings is a wholesaler and supplier of Home and Kitchen appliances; Personal Grooming Products; and Consumer Electronics under the brands name of Samsung; Kenwood; Wahl and Sinotec. Healthwest Africa sells home appliances & consumer electronics; and personal grooming and kitchen appliances under the brand name of Hisense and Philips. Solid Logistics provides logistics, warehousing and freight services to its associated companies being: IT4Africa; Goldtech and Healthwest Africa. 

The CA approved the acquisition which was however met with disdain from other retailers such as Sefalana and Furnmart who viewed the move as ‘unfair’ to competition. Perhaps one could deduce that the addition of clothing into Choppies appears to establish the route that Ottapathu signaled through his company’s acquisition of Warbler of the introduction of consumer goods across different product categories. 

When Choppies opened its first store in Lobatse 30 years ago, it was a regular grocery store that sold foodstuffs and perishables. Over the years Choppies diversified within both product categories and value chain. Its aggression in establishing a familiarity with its brand saw the entry of various foodstuffs labeled Choppies. The newest addition followed suit as the clothing is also labeled Choppies. In 2015 Choppies listing statement stated that “On average, each month the Botswana stores complete 6 million transactions.” Fast track to 2016, this number is estimated to have increased exponentially based on the expansion of product categories. 


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