Innovation and stores refurbishment on the forefront as OK Zimbabwe eyes the future

“The online order pickup and delivery was confined to the OKmart brand in the past, but service is now going to be progressively expanded to cover all branches".

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HARARE – Leading supermarket retailer covering groceries, basic clothing and textiles and houseware products, OK Zimbabwe Limited (OKZ.zw), said it will continue to pursue more innovative initiatives to grow market share profitability while the refurbishment and expansion drive will also be reinforced.

In a statement accompanying the full-year financials ending 31 March 2021, the Group pointed that a number of stores targeted for refurbishment and potential new sites are already under consideration.

On innovation, this is of interest particularly in the COVID-19 era and how businesses plan post-the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of life, from the personal to the professional, that is, how companies interact with their customers, how customers choose and purchase products and services, and equally important – how supply chains deliver them.

What has been said:

The Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Maxen Karombo indicated that the Group will be upgrading its core IT systems in the current year to a modern and integrated ERP system to boost efficiency and effectiveness in the organisation’s business operations.

Notably, he said that webstore sales have been growing steadily.

“The online order pickup and delivery was confined to the OKmart brand in the past, but service is now going to be progressively expanded to cover all branches,” said Mr Karombo.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The financial report shows how beneficial it could be for the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE)-listed retail giant to pursue innovation as a hedge against COVID-19 induced slump in retail sales.

The Group’s sales volumes for the financial period were hit by COVID-19 as the lockdown restrictions negatively impacted business through supply chain disruptions and reduced consumer disposable incomes.

Volumes declined by 13% compared to prior year subsequently leading to a 2% drop in inflation-adjusted revenue of ZWL 34.3 billion from ZWL 35.0 billion in 2019. Profit after tax declined by 46% to ZWL 1.1 billion from ZWL 2.0 billion in prior year.

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so someone famous once said.

A look into global trends shows that many parts of the world saw an unprecedented boom in e-commerce, with shoppers turning to online channels and delivery as relying on physical stores to buy is now limited due to lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

 On top of measures like employing thorough cleaning regimes, requiring customers to wear face coverings, making hand sanitiser widely available and laying down markings to encourage shoppers to physically distance themselves, retailers are increasingly beginning to turn to technology to solve these problems and improve the shopping experience.

While in Zimbabwe banks have been at the forefront of digital innovations, it will be quite interesting to see top retailers like OK Zimbabwe who serve millions of customers investing in technology to enhance a smooth and COVID-19 safe in-store shopping experience.

Importantly, efficient technologies can become part of the ‘new normal’ retail experience in the longer term.

On refurbishment, OKZ.zw looks to build from the already existing momentum.  During the year ended 31 March 2021, the Group saw refurbishments completed at OK Avonlea, OK Machipisa, Bon Marché Belgravia, Bon Marché Eastlea, OK Kadoma, OK Rusape and OK Hwange.

Meanwhile, two new stores were opened, an OK store in Harare’s Sanganayi Inn area and an OKmart store in Victoria Falls.

“The refurbished stores and new branches were well received in their respective markets and made a significant contribution to the Group’s sales,” the Group chairperson, Herbert Nkala said.

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