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The home of discount

A bargain doesn’t have to be in lockstep with basement service says Midmar’s Theo Naidoo.


eorge Naidoo is one of the liquor industry’s biggest personalities. He was the first Black to launch into South Africa’s liquor trade and has built a business, which now has more than 30 stores across the country – Midmar Liquors. He has shown that a bargain need not be in lockstep with basement service; that


best deals can be served with expertise and customer attentiveness. It’s a formula that has grown a dynamic business in a razor-edged competitive sector. “Back at the beginning it was very hard for non-white people to get a liquor licence. But there was little competition within the sector and margins were a bit higher,” executive director Theo Naidoo - George’s son - tells

Midmar Liquors

South Africa Magazine. “Now competition is a lot fiercer. My father saw a gap, which he wanted to exploit and he has succeeded in doing so. “We are the only Blackowned liquor chain company in South Africa, and it’s been run by my father since day one. And we’ve been a Black owned company since inception and have remained so. I don’t think we’ve punted this aspect enough. “ George opened his first store in the Cape Town suburb of Parow in 1982. He had a staff of four.

A NOVEL APPROACH In a sector dominated by the self-service ethos George Naidoo set out with a novel many would say contradictory - vision: give the public quality wines, spirits and beverages at competitive prices in an informed and shopperfriendly setting. “The Midmar shopping experience is distinctive, not least in a country where customer service expectations are modest,” Theo Naidoo says. “We start serving the customer from the moment he jumps out of a car in the parking lot. He is approached and asked if he has any returns – empties - and then on right through the store, advice and assistance are on hand from a staff trained in-house and moulded around the concept of quality customer service.

When he has completed his shopping we carry the goods out to his car.” Customers appreciate the extent of this service, its detailed and personal nature. And they keep coming back. “We make people feel special,” Theo says. Perhaps surprisingly the Midmar example has won few sector followers; competitors have failed to offer a similar service. “From their side not much has happened on customer service, but on our side it is something we constantly strive to improve. “And if you compare our retail industry with prominent ones across the world, we in South Africa are not very customer-orientated. Not at all in fact. But this is what we at Midmar want to change and especially in our industry.”

Our strategy going forward is to expand and keep expanding. That’s something we are not going to give up on

ENTER, RETAIL GIANTS The liquor market is seeing a major, dramatic development, Theo says – the entry of major retailers. Everybody it seems wants to come to the bottle party. “In the past big retailers weren’t allowed to have liquor stores, but our big retail players like Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Checkers, Shopright and the Spar Group are all going the liquor store route now. “Between them there’s probably close on 2,000 applications for liquor stores across the country and it’s getting very competitive. But having said that I don’t think right now they have proper knowledge of the industry, nor anywhere near the range we have. It’s a very limited range in fact, and their pricing is out compared with us.” Midmar’s response is to continue making itself the store of choice. “So we have these destination stores which we believe our customers will continue to frequent. With our buying power we can definitely be more competitive than anybody, even the likes of major supermarkets.” Midmar has been expanding. It has opened several new stores, specifically in Durban and the Western Cape. “We’ve identified those areas where we want to expand,” Theo says. “Our


Midmar Liquors

whole strategy is looking for destination stores where people make a point of looking for Midmar as opposed to a competitor or one of the retail stores like Pick n Pay and so on. A place where they can have a good shopping experience, have a wide selection of wine and retail spirits and everything is competitively priced. ”Our strategy going forward is to expand and keep expanding. That’s something we are not going to give up on.”

George Naidoo 4

Within the Western Cape Midmar is the biggest mover of Brand House products – the joint trade name of Diageo, Heineken and Namibia Breweries, combining the sales, marketing and distribution of some of the world’s top premium brands – and second or third in the whole of South Africa. A major importer of Scotch whisky, Midmar also has its own brand labels, Royal Castle and Three Scotsmen the two biggest. “They’ve been a phenomenal success, quite unbelievable. People are looking for quality whisky at a good price, and these brands are selling more in our stores than the more renowned brands like Bells and J&B. Quite remarkable.” For Midmar customers, joy is to be found at a discount and with personal service, Theo concludes. “Our policy is shopping at a place where you get value for money together with a service that you don’t associate with value for money products. “We offer a top service, open 12 hours a day, six or sometimes seven days a week, and no competitor opens these hours. We are there for the consumer and we want them to keep coming back.” And his preferred drink? “I’m a whisky on the rocks kind of guy. It has to be Scotch.” END

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