How To: Grow Retail Footprint By 1000% in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Skills Junction

DHL has taken an innovative approach to growing its retail footprint to achieve a 1,000 percent rise in less than three years.

The company’s number of service points has increased from 300 to over 3,300, not by building its own bricks and mortar branches but by partnering with local business owners who act as DHL resellers.

Thousands of vendors now allow their customers to send DHL shipments alongside their normal offerings; all of which benefit from commission on all DHL sales and an increase in foot traffic.

Sumesh Rahavendra, head of marketing for DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa, explained: “It’s really a win-win approach. We having given these small shop owners a unique business opportunity to grow their revenues and gain credibility by aligning themselves with an international brand. If they do well, we do well.”

The company is willing to partner with any entrepreneurial business that sees value in becoming a DHL reseller, and all partners are provided with a complete branding kit and go through an extensive training programme to ensure compliance with the supply chain giant’s requirements and procedures.

DHL has also forged similar partnerships with larger companies such as mobile network operators, retail business centres, supermarkets and fuel retailers.

The company has subsequently found that partnering with existing vendors is more cost effective than building its own branches, while it also enhances localisation. An entrepreneur in Ghana can send a sample to a client in the US from the same place he picks up his daily newspaper, whereas a mother in Mauritius is now able to ship a birthday gift to her son in France while her car is being filled up at the fuel station.

“Through the passion and energy of our 4,000 employees across Sub Saharan Africa, we have changed the perception that DHL only caters for multinationals and big business,” Rahavendra continued. “Our retail customers no longer have to sit in traffic to send a document or parcel, but can literally find a DHL service point right around the corner.

“Perhaps most gratifying is the fact that we are empowering business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs across Africa with an additional opportunity to earn money and live better.”

He tells the story of a DHL reseller in Kenya whose mobile phone accessories shop is located right opposite a DHL corporate-owned store. When asked why customers would ship with her rather than go to the fully-branded DHL outlet, she said the average person relates much better with her shop, perceiving it to be affordable and less formal than the one across the road.

Rahavendra concluded: “In a continent like Africa, where the informal economy rules, a company’s retail strategy cannot revolve around high-end shopping malls.

“You have to operate on a level where customers can understand, feel and relate to your product. You really need to ensure that your brand connects to the average person on the street.”

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