Of the 32 Trappers store franchisees spread across eight provinces, Antoinette van der Merwe stands out as the only hen among the roosters – hers (running the Brits outlet in Brits Mall) is the only woman-owned store franchise in the group and has been running since 2010.
This has never been an obvious matter to her as she has always had support from mostly men in business, she says. “That said, my mother was an excellent example of how women could hold their own in a typically male-dominated business environment. She taught me how to be confident and stand my ground.”
Her experience extends beyond the years of running the Trappers franchise: Van der Merwe has been living in and been a business owner in the North West for more than 20 years. She also comes from a family that was involved in retail: her father was a senior accountant for OK Bazaars, her mother an area manager for one of the largest Foschini outlets in the country, and her stepfather started Woolworths’ franchise concept.
Van der Merwe’s retail career in fact started with part-time, holiday and weekend work in the stores her parents then worked for. She later joined Foschini on a permanent basis and continually nurtured her career and worked her way up. In 1995 she bought the Woolworths franchise in Brits and Hartbeespoort, but in 2007 (after Woolworths bought back and closed all of its franchises) she decided to invest in her Trappers store in Brits.
“The Trappers concept and products were a perfect fit for the adventurous, outdoor, hunting and camping community of Brits,” she says. “It’s really a small-town community with a big city attitude, where everyone knows everyone. I knew from the start that the shop would appeal to the locals.”
Recently she revamped her store in order to address any chance of store blindness. By refreshing the store’s look she is trying to ensure that her staff and customers do not get too used to the same layout, which could result in them overlooking what’s on offer, because it has “faded into wallpaper and become less noticeable,” she explains. “The key objective of the revamp was to create a less cluttered and more open shopping display with easier access to merchandise.”