Staying in the good books

Pick n Pay chief executive Richard Brasher

Pick n Pay chief executive Richard Brasher

Pick n Pay is a South African household name. The supermarket has been listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange since 1968 and expanded internationally with a presence in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius, Swaziland and Lesotho. The franchise has put significant effort into building a rich reputational footprint and has three basic principles that form the core of its messaging: consumer sovereignty, doing good is good business, and maximising business efficiency.

“By understanding customers’ lives, observing how they are changing, listening carefully and responding with new and better products and services, a business can deliver on what it promises,” says David North, head of group strategy at Pick n Pay. “It’s about being in tune with customers and delivering on your promises, whether that’s for better prices, higher quality or higher social and ethical standards. We’ve always believed that doing good is good business and have delivered consistently on that belief.”

For North, Pick n Pay’s focus on its core principles is fundamental to the organisation’s reputation. The food retailer has worked hard to earn customer trust and loyalty and has also put time and effort into establishing a thoroughly modern online platform and a robust rewards system.

“As a food retailer the first step is to deliver on the basics of good value, quality, range, service and availability,” says North. “For example, our Smart Shopper loyalty programme is the most popular in the country and has given over than R1-billion back to customers since we introduced it just three years ago.”

Recent research undertaken by the organisation showed that, in difficult times, customers shop around more and more to ensure they get the best prices for their groceries. To adapt to this nehaviour, Pick n Pay introduced the Brand Match concept — the company shops around for the best prices so the consumer doesn’t have to.

“If we are more expensive than our four main competitors on a basket of Brand Match goods, then we give the customer a cash coupon for their shop,” says North. “Consumers think it’s a great idea.”


Consumers are well aware of which companies they trust, and which they don’t. “Corporate reputation is vital,” North states. “Customers want the businesses they support to be honest and ethical and on their side. If a company gets it wrong, it takes a lot of time, money, effort and the public’s forgiveness to repair its reputation. The best approach to avoid this is to be honest and keep listening to your customers.

 “Trust is the foundation of your reputation,” continues North. “But communications have speeded up, particularly with social media, so a reputation can be damaged more quickly than before — particularly if you don’t answer people’s questions quickly and honestly.”

The problems that arise around a business are no longer relegated to the business pages of the paper; they appear on Twitter and Facebook and are shared with millions. People want to know why something has happened and to be engaged on a very real level and Pick n Pay has a social media team dedicated to achieving this very goal.

“Customers also reward businesses that give back to the community. We help small businesses find a market and fund many charities, such as our Kids in the Park programme which takes disadvantaged children to South Africa’s national parks,” says North.

Pick n Pay has put a lot of time and effort into creating a reputation around its commitments to being sustainable, reliable and community-focused. 

“We are acutely focused on issues such as energy conservation, recycling and building stores that lessen our carbon footprint,” adds North. “We want to be able to step lightly and be efficient as we do business with our customers. For any brand looking to uphold a strong reputation we recommend putting customers first, understanding their lives and helping them on that journey.”

This article forms part of a larger supplement which can be found here. This supplement has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian’s advertisers. All content has been independently sourced by the M&G’s supplements editorial team