Checkers is building something quite remarkable – and far bigger than its competitors

Checkers’ 60-minute grocery delivery service, Checkers Sixty60, launched at the most opportune time: mere months before South Africa was sent into a mandatory lockdown in early 2020.

With the entire population confined to their homes, this led to a shift in consumer behavioural patterns and forced the acceleration of online shopping, most notably the buying of essential products such as food and beverages, cosmetics and medicines.

The retailer said that Checkers Sixty60 was created to fulfil the need in the market for a fast and reliable on-demand grocery delivery service and has outperformed all initial estimates, having been rolled out to 233 stores, an increase of 146 stores over the past year alone.

The largest private employer in South Africa, Shoprite employs 142,602 people. It said it created 3,897 new jobs over the past year, including the creation of 2,870 Sixty60 related posts and 3,584 jobs since its launch in November 2019.

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed Shoprite forward digitally, and the group is looking at several tech-focused innovations in the future, said chief executive Pieter Engelbrecht.

Speaking on the group’s annual results for the 53 weeks to 4 July 2021, Engelbrecht said that Shoprite has adopted a ‘single system of record’ IT system, enabling employees to become increasingly collaborative and innovative.

“In addition to transforming how we operate, our IT re-platforming has facilitated and fast-tracked our transformation as part of our digital and data-led future strategy,” he said.

“The group has recently unveiled ShopriteX, our digital tech hub which blends the best of data science, technology and digital talent to save customers time and money through innovation.”

After a year of incubation, Engelbrecht said that ShopriteX already boasts two industry-leading innovations:

  • The Xtra Savings Rewards Programme – with 20 million members;
  • Checkers Sixty60 – operating from 233 stores.

“Consumer response on both counts has been unrivalled, with the Xtra Savings Rewards Programme signing up over 20 million members and Checkers Sixty60 becoming the number one grocery app in the country with over 1.5 million app downloads,” said Engelbrecht.

Checkers said its delivery service leads the ‘Quick Commerce’ revolution with millions of orders delivered in under 30 minutes. It said that 80% of the population live within 5km of one of its 2,898 stores.

Checkers is currently leading the pack in both the rewards programme and same-day delivery segments. Competing retailer Pick n Pay’s Asap! delivery app operates out of 100-plus stores, and the group’s Smart Shopper rewards programme is in the hands of over 8.5 million customers at the latest reporting.

Woolworths, meanwhile, has only recently started ramping up its same-day delivery service, Woolies Dash, which currently operates out of only 18 stores. Woolworths has not published the latest numbers for its WRewards programme but recorded over 3.4 million users in 2019.

Future tech

Engelbrecht said that ShopriteX forms part of the group’s strategy to grow and monetize its ecosystem of value for consumers. One of the new concepts currently being trialled is Checkers Rush – an automated, cashless “no queues, no checkout, no waiting” concept store.

Located at the ShopriteX offices in Brackenfell in the Western Cape, Checkers Rush allows employees to grab products and walk out without paying at a till. The group said this is possible using advanced AI-camera technology to identify the products being taken off the shelves. Checkers Rush then bills the users’ bank cards upon exit.

“We’ve spoken often about the next era of growth for Shoprite being about precision retailing, and that future is here. ShopriteX will use our rich customer data to create a ‘Smarter Shoprite’ and ultimately fuse the best of digital with our physical and operational strength across the continent,” Engelbrecht said.

While much of the future of the business is focused on the digital, Engelbrecht said that the group continues to hire. “Despite being South Africa’s largest private-sector employer, we still aspire to create employment as it is critical to improving the lives of our fellow citizens. On that front, we added 3,897 new jobs this year.”


Read: Checkers goes after Woolworths as it opens more high-end stores in South Africa

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Checkers is building something quite remarkable – and far bigger than its competitors