Online shopping shootout: Woolworths vs Pick ‘n Pay vs Checkers

South Africa is seeing a strong push from retailers into online shopping and same-day delivery space, with the likes of Woolworths, Pick n Pay and Checkers looking to capture a slice of this growing segment.

Data from NielsenIQ, which provides benchmark tracking of the actual point of sales of most of the largest retailers in South Africa including their online sales, showed that online sales for the food have surged 53% in the latest three months.

The biggest movers in the online sales for specific food products in terms of year-on-year growth were long-life milk which saw online sales up by 35% and instant coffee sales increasing by 52%. Bread is also a must in the average online food basket, as is alcohol.

“This can be attributed to a significant number of consumers who are still working from home, either full time or partially and are taking breaks and making beverages like coffee that they would normally make at work. Online orders allow them to make quick and convenient top up purchases of these products to fuel these occasions,” NielsenIQ said.

A 2022 strategy document from Pick n Pay outlined the importance of the burgeoning market, noting that while online grocery sales in South Africa are still in the early stages of growth, this segment is expanding rapidly.

Online shopping penetration in South Africa is at approximately 1.1% but is expected to more than double to 2.6% over the next five years, it said.

While the figure appears small, with South Africa’s entire grocery retail market projected to reach R855 billion over the same period, this represents over R22 billion worth of sales that all major retailers will want a piece of.

Pick n Pay has partnered with delivery platform Mr D to boost its own on-demand delivery capacity, through which the group expects to increase online revenue by 700% by FY 2026.

Shoprite and Checkers have pioneered the on-demand delivery space in South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, and currently take up 75% of the market share in this segment.

Woolworths, meanwhile, is also increasing its presence in the online and app-delivery space by expanding its Woolies Dash services to more stores and regions in South Africa.

In March, the group said that online food sales already contribute as much as 3.1% of its food sales.

Given this growing demand, BusinessTech decided to see how online offerings differ among these major retailers, including delivery fees.

In determining the items for comparison, the following was factored in:

  • The products chosen are a selection of everyday items and do not necessarily reflect a basket of goods for any specific household.
  • Across all stores, the cheapest available product in each category was selected.
  • Prices do not take into account any promotions – the original, non-promotional prices of goods were used.
  • The effects of Smart Shopper points, Xtra Rewards and WRewards were left out of the comparison.
  • Item availability for online purchases is typically dependent on local stores. Stores for this comparison are all located in and around Midrand and Centurion.

Retailers compared

With same-day delivery charges being standardised across all retailers, the major price differences came down to the products.

Checkers was the cheapest overall for this particular shop, with the lower prices online in eight of the 12 products, though Pick n Pay was a mere R10 more expensive. Woolworths, known as the premium brand retailer, had the most expensive basket.

The total food and delivery fees combined showed a R54.50 difference between Checkers and Woolworths.

Same-day delivery options

Although the delivery fee remains consistent across each retailer, there are differences in terms of delivery time, availability as well as the integration of loyalty rewards.

Woolies Dash is the only retailer that does not yet offer the integration of rewards or promotional programmes in its app. The retailer also has fewer available locations – although it is in the process of a national rollout.

In a recent shareholder presentation, Woolworths CEO, Roy Baggattini said that the group’s same-day delivery service will be available to roughly 100 stores by the end of the year.

Despite acknowledging that Woolies Dash had a slower and later start from its competitors, Bagattini said that it differs in that it skews heavily towards delivering fresh groceries, incorporating a full cold-chain solution for its deliveries to ensure that fresh produce remains the same after delivery as it would be instore.

Delivery detail Woolies Dash PnP Asap! Checkers Sixty60
Delivery slots All week: 10:00 – 20:00 Mon to Fri: 09:00 – 19:00
Saturday: 09:00 – 17:00
Store dependent. Time slot selected on checkout.
Est. delivery time Subject to time slot 60 minute same-day 60 minute same-day
Delivery distance Within 5km of store Subject to location Subject to location
Locations 31 areas in 3 provinces 392 stores in 7 provinces 158 areas in 9 provinces
Item limit 30 items 35 items 35 items
Rewards integration No Yes Yes
Price R35.00 R35.00 R35.00

Checkers’ Sixty60 one-hour on-demand grocery delivery service launched in late 2019 and according to the head of 22seven Insights, Simon Anderssen, in the final quarter of 2021, Sixty60 made up 75% of all-demand grocery delivery spend in the final quarter of 2021:

Read: South Africa’s economy is now back to pre-pandemic levels

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Online shopping shootout: Woolworths vs Pick ‘n Pay vs Checkers