It’s the first shopping day after the government officials got paid and the streets of Springbok are buzzing. We battle to find a parking spot.

“Many people, but little money,” remarks Kosie Grobbelaar of Snyman’s Outfitters laconically.

Apart from tourists, the more than 10 000 people of Springbok depend on the surrounding mining towns for prosperity – and when mines close or lay-off people, as have been happening over the past few years, business suffers. There is hope though, as people are talking about an Indian group taking over some of the mines, but, who knows…? Grobbelaar shrugs his shoulders.

When Snyman Outfitters was founded in 1976 by his father Grobbie and a Snyman, who died within a few years, the town en route to Namibia also benefitted from the patronage of neighbouring farming and mining towns like Pofadder, Garies, Kleinzee, Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. Now those towns generate little income.

In the 1970’s Snyman’s Outfitters had little competition and after 17 years on the road as a representative for VEKA clothing, Grobbelaar snr enjoyed a relatively stress free retailing experience. Kosie, who left his accountancy job with Sasko and took over the store after his father retired 14 years ago, now have to compete with Totalsports, sportscene, Markhams, Shoelettes, PEP stores, etc. While the sport stores in town have closed down, he added sports product categories and is now looking at ways to expand his premises to include camping. But, he cautions, the cake is only this big …

He enlarged his slice by drawing feet into the store with cellular phone sales and an Internet Café, which attracts the Orange River rafters keen to catch up with news from home and the office at the end of a trip.

Trading has changed a lot over the years, says Grobbelaar. For example, the basket of goods will now seldom include suits, and definitely not striped shirts with collars, but most likely brands like Jeep, adidas, Quiksilver and Billabong. That is the advantage of an independent store owner who has been trading a long time, says Grobbelaar, you know what the customers want.

With his wife, Naomi, and son, Albie, involved in the store, the Grobbelaars have a vested interest in making it work.

In his father’s day, an agent would visit to show the latest ranges for most brands – now Grobbelaar travels to Cape Town every second month to select stock as few of the brands launch their ranges at the same time. He understands, he says, as many of the sport stores between Cape Town and Springbok have closed down.

 
 
Naomi (left), Kosie and Albie Grobelaar of Snyman’s Outfitters 
 
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