12 Things You Didn’t Know About Woolworths South Africa

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Woolworths South Africa

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Started in 1931, Woolworths of South Africa has been rapidly increasing to be one of the country’s most popular retail stores. But not everything comes with a bed of roses, this company has seen many of its ups and downs. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Woolworths.

Sources: Timeslive.com, Iol.co.za, Wikipedia.org, Bizcommunity.com

Jeff Attaway/Flickr.com

1. First Store

The first Woolworths store opened inside The Old Royal Hotel in Cape Town in 1931 and was founded by Max Sonnenberg along with his son Richard.

name confusion

2. Name confusion

Despite two retail giants by the same name in the United States and Australia, Woolworths of South Africa named the business after the F.W. Woolworth Company. It was legally used without permission and still to this date, remains a confusion between the three big retail companies.


3. Revenue

The South African chain reputedly earns $3.6 billion dollars in annual revenue. General merchandise and clothing revenue are worth 12.3 percent to 10.7 million rand from 9.5 million rand in the previous comparative year.

Source: AFR, CNBCAfrica


4. Brands

Woolworth vows to remain committed to the house of brands strategy and not turn into a Target (that carries generic brands). “A lot of those are brands that most customers would never be able to name. Those are brands we will replace,” Ian Moir Woolworths spokesperson said in 2014. The most popular brands are Australian clothing retailer Country Road that was brought to South Africa.

Soure: Sydney Morning Herald

Miran Rijavec/Flickr.com

5. GMO cutbacks

In 2014, Woolworths announced its plans to cut back the grocers food products with GMO by 50 percent. This plan is expected to be completed by June 2015. This decision is met with both approvals and disapproval by people that think Woolworths is robbing shoppers of their choice to buy products with GMO.

Source: All Africa


6. Plagiarizing

In 2013,  South African artist, Euodia Roets thought Woolworths’ hummingbird picture on their fabrics looked too familiar. She filed a complaint against the retail company, accusing them of plagiarizing her painting (above right). This spectacle received some attention from local media, which villainized the company. Fortunately for Woolworths, the company escaped a lawsuit since Roets copied the hummingbird artwork from another copyrighted photograph. The owner of the photo said he granted permission and wasn’t upset, leading the whole incident to be swept under the rug.

Source: IOL


7. Affirmative Action

In 2012, a group of white South Africans campaigned against the retail giant stating that the company discriminates and hires only non-white people. This claim came after Woolworths’ website mistakenly said they were only interested in “Africans, coloured, or Indian candidates” for the jobs. The company later retracted their wording and rewrote “preference will be given to candidates from designated groups.” Woolworths denies this allegation and claims to employ people of all races.

Source: IOL

christian magazines

8. Christian magazines

Woolworths came under fire in October 2010 when the company removed Christian magazines from its shelves. This enraged South African Christians who vocally swore to boycott the chain stores. CEO Simon Susman claimed the company was only pulling the magazine due to low sales and not a personal agenda against Christianity. To avoid further outcry, Woolworths caved in and put the magazines back in its stores.

Source: News24


9. Frankie’s Soft Drinks

When Woolworth put out their own line of vintage sodas in stores, Frankie Soft Drink’s sued the retail giant for replicating its brand. In 2012, South African Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the drinks, were indeed, the carbon copy (no puns intended) of Frankie’s. Woolworths had no choice but to agree and discontinue their own line immediately.

Source: Daily Mavericks

pigs head

10. Pig’s head incident

Woolworths grabbed the South African’s media headlines again in 2014 when a photo of a man placing a pig’s head in the kosher section of the store went viral. Anti-Israel activists shared this photo to liken Jews to pigs. Woolworths immediately released a statement saying that the incident, which took place in one of their stores was unacceptable, distasteful protest and will be heavily investigated.

Source: News24

bds south africa

11. BDS South Africa

This retail corporation carries only 0.01 percent of Israeli products but the BDS (Pro-Palestine activists) of South Africa are boycotting the company until all of the products made in Israel are removed. After Woolworths failed to comply, ongoing in-store protests were made repeatedly until the company had to file a court order to ban protesters from its stores.

Source: Times Live


12. Expansion

With 65 stores across 11 African countries, Woolworths announced its plan to open 15 more stores in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Namibia, and Mauritius.

Source: Biz Community