This year, Trappers celebrates its 40th anniversary with a healthy 17% growth in group sales for the 2017 financial year that ended in February. This South African outdoor retailer achieved this in a period when there has been a notable decline in national consumer confidence and retail sales growth.
Over the past four decades it gradually grew from a mom and pop wholesaler to a national retail enterprise, successfully entrenched in the South African outdoor retail environment, reports Michelle Cavé. As one of the longest standing market players, Trappers is well recognised amongst customers, having built capability and scale across the entire supply chain to improve its footprint and points of difference.
Trappers is still growing and is outperforming the retail index (less than 3%) with double digit sales growth. Its ambition is to grow revenue from R274-m to R320-m by 2018.
The Johannesburg–based executive directors, Grant Ponting and John Black say that they have never forgotten the brand’s heritage and continue to focus on their core customers, whilst still managing to keep up with trends in a rapidly changing retail environment. This approach, combined with strong operating values, is paying off, they say.
In 2004, Grant Ponting and his family acquired the then struggling group, which comprised 14 franchised stores, after initially providing a management consulting service to the owners of the company.
Ponting had 5 years’ retail experience at the family-owned Dunns retail chain, as well as a Master’s degree in Retail Management from Stirling University, UK, when they acquired Trappers. He also has a B.Comm-degree, majoring in economics and marketing, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
John Black joined Trappers in 2011, and was appointed director soon after. He has a wealth of retail experience and impressive qualifications, including a B.Comm in Marketing Management from UNISA. The topic of his MBA-thesis at UCT was also retail related, namely Innovation: aspects of management practice that inhibit or enable and accelerate innovation within South African retail organisations.
Through their combined knowledge and experience, they turned the struggling brand around to become a thriving outdoor equipment retailer and strong market competitor.
Today, the Trappers Group comprises three entities: Trappers Franchising Proprietary Limited, Trappers Retail Proprietary Limited and Outland Distributors Proprietary Limited. And the business boasts 32 stores across eight South African provinces, selling a wide range of outdoor equipment and clothing.
In recent weeks, Trappers opened two new stores in Gauteng in Clearwater Mall and Springs Mall. This expansion forms part of a greater vision to grow the store base to between 45–50 new stores within the next three years in both existing and untapped locations across South Africa.
There are currently eight corporate owned stores, while the rest are franchised. “Much of our success can be attributed to strong franchisees,” says Ponting. “We’re very particular about who we work with and as a result, have built up a loyal and stable franchisee base that mirrors our values and vision. We pride ourselves in having an almost nil franchisee turnover.
“Trappers operates in a highly competitive market and so customer interaction, local market relevance and a wide range assortment remain our key focus,” he adds. “Our franchised stores are community focused owner–run stores that are often key differentiators in the outlying urban areas they trade in. Being owner–run ensures a vested interest approach to get to know and understand customers personally. Most – 85% – of the store products are core to the group, and we allow for 15% flexibility in order to ensure our franchise stores are relevant to local markets.”
Expansion is a strategic priority for Trappers and as such, the directors have negotiated a significant private equity investment that will serve as capital to increase the store base within the next three years.
The company has registered trademarks in SA and Southern Africa, and there’s potential to expand into neighbouring Botswana and Namibia.
Given the increased size and scale of the business, Trappers is now able to drive private label ranges across apparel, footwear and accessories. As part of the business’ short–term growth strategy, these exclusive ranges will gradually become more available in–store and expand to meet customers’ diverse needs and offer wider choices.
“We’ve always had a large contingent of male customers, but this is rapidly shifting to include more women, so we’re evolving our ladies offering,” explains Black. “We also recognise the value of the younger customer and aim to appeal more generally across the sector.”
Culturally, Trappers is driven by a caring, optimistic and committed long–term set of values. The leaders of the business strongly support local suppliers and locally made goods. Paramount to the brand’s value is its We Love Local initiative, which is evident across the business offering.
Conservation is another issue that’s aligned to Trappers’ corporate value system. It established a partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) based on core synergies, and continually supports its initiatives. More recently, Trappers helped contribute and raise almost half a million rand for EWT’s anti-rhino poaching initiative.
“In four decades, a lot has changed in our business and market. As a company we have grown significantly. Yet, we face challenges almost daily, many of which are unique to the South African business climate,” adds Ponting. “As long as we remain true to Trappers and our core values, whilst continuing to improve operational efficiencies across owned and franchise stores, I believe we have an opportunity to make further in–roads in our market segment.”