Excellent news for the outdoor industry!  Expedition North, a new chain of 12 outdoor stores opened their doors across the country at the beginning of the month … and even better news for the industry is that they will be focusing on branded goods.

While the chain is brand new, most of the people behind it are industry veterans, who gained valuable experience working for Trappers or running their own Trappers franchise stores. Pieter Olivier, for example, did a 4-month apprenticeship in the trade 25 years ago by working for Peter Shead’s store in the Sanlam Centre, Pretoria, after leaving school. He subsequently opened franchise stores  in Polokwane and later in Tzaneen, which have now become Expedition North stores. Their Polokwane store has won the Franchise Store of the Year in 2018 and twice before.

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The team servicing customers in the Expedition North Polokwane store, with owner Pieter Olivier third from right at the back. Photo: Expedition North.

Shead, who now helps to administer the Expedition North franchise group, has 40 years’ experience with Trappers and opened his own store 32 years ago.

The Olivier family also extended the mainly Limpopo-based Trappers footprint to the Cape by opening stores in George (run by Eben Olivier), Somerset West and Worcester (run by Gavin le Roux). Apart from the name change (including emails) the contact details of the former franchise stores remain the same.

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The Worcester team: Adam-Luke Prins, Elize Dreyer, Jenevra McLeod, Riyaad Admi Louw, owner Gavin Le Roux, Chanderé Tobias and manager Ezauh Mubeen Sedan. Photo: Expedition North.

Following a change in ownership at the former franchisor, the family decided to part with their existing group and established Expedition North as the new franchisor which is now wholly owned by the Olivier and le Roux families. The family has built a reputation as astute businessmen with integrity and this has certainly contributed to the fact that already seven other stores who used to belong to the former group have decided to join Expedition North as their new franchisor.

 

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The new Expedition North team in George: Hugo Styger, Fergan Maasdorp and Jacques Dean (front) and in the middle Angelique van Eeden. Back: owner-manager Eben Olivier and Keeghan Job. Photo: George Herald.

With 12 stores joining the group before it opened on August 1 and several more expressing interest Olivier believes they will soon regain – and even surpass –  the buying power they enjoyed as part of a franchise network. He is a strong believer in the strength of central buying for a number of stores, especially when negotiating with brands.

During their first year of independent trading their aim will be to establish the Expedition North brand name and to find their feet, says Olivier, as he knows that it always takes time to gain consumer trust. But he believes they have a major trading benefit:  “our stores are all run by the owners and therefore we offer a superior service to corporate stores that are run by employees without a vested interest.”

Another benefit is that they know that consumers in different parts of the country prefer different brands and clothing looks, which a store owner who has more control over buying decisions can more easily adjust to than corporate stores.

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Apart from the obvious benefit to importers and local manufacturers of a chain concentrating on branded outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment, this will also benefit the independent retail trade as a whole. Because, without outlets selling branded goods, many international distributors will either close their South African doors or sell online only. And the whole industry, especially consumers, will be the losers.