The new branches in Limpopo, in South Africa, and Windhoek, in Namibia, have enabled steel products supplier Stewarts & Lloyds (S&L) to bring steel closer to customers, who would normally have had to wait for deliveries from a larger branch.
“We’ve brought the steel to their doorstep; customers can visit the branch and pick and choose what they would like to buy. It’s made it a much better customer experience and enabled us to offer customers a larger basket of goods than we could previously, owing to our not being physically present in these areas,” explains S&L regional manager Ryan Purdon.
Consequently, the company can add to its purchasing volumes, with branches placing it in a stronger position when negotiation pricing, and be more competitive in the market, which, in turn, allows for customers to benefit.
“As we open more branches around the country and expand across our borders, we are growing our footprint, which grows our market share as a group. This strengthens the S&L brand and makes people more aware of us, hopefully leading to our being their preferred supplier of any steel or steel-related products,” adds Purdon.
S&L northern region area manager Corne Kloppers states that the two new outlets have helped to supply in areas where there is demand.
This increased supply places S&L in a stronger position, as the company has added substantial volumes to its supply, enabling it to be more competitive in the markets which the company supplies.
“Growing our market share nationally enables us to use our branch networks more efficiently to the benefit of customers, making S&L a household name and preferred supplier. It also strengthens our supply chain relationships, which is just as important as our relationships with customers,” says Kloppers.
Further, S&L aims to open additional stores in Rustenburg, in North West province; Witbank, in Mpumalanga; and Nelspruit, also in Mpumalanga, next year. Kloppers states that the stores should be open and trading in the first quarter of next year.
This will also assist in growing the market in these areas – as supply becomes more cost effective for customers, they can access material quicker and complete jobs quicker too, states Purdon.
While a large number of S&L’s stores are combination stores, the company has implemented a strategy of dividing the fluid control and steel branches, and changing some branches into focus branches to cater more specifically to every market and its requirements.
“This means that people employed at these particular branches would be more knowledgeable in their field, rather than having someone who has a basic knowledge of everything. They’ll be able to share their expertise with the customer and provide better advice. This benefits the customer and improves their purchasing experience. It also leads to job creation by having to employ more people,” adds Purdon.
Each focus branch will also stock a larger volume of material at competitive prices, as Purdon hopes that the volumes of sales for fluid control and steel will increase, owing to this customer-centric focus.
Kloppers explains that the stores focused on steel or fluid control will depend on the location and what the respective region requires. S&L have earmarked certain areas that will be prioritised before continuing with any other branches.
The most important requirement for the steel construction and cladding sector is electricity, as not having uninterrupted access to electricity results in project developments being delayed or cancelled, he adds.
These delays and cancellations also create uncertainty in the market, consequently impacting on businesses, causing supply chain disruptions and increasing price fluctuations.
“It’s also important to have a stable and trustworthy government, and municipalities that are willing to invest in the country when it comes to infrastructure, housing and farming. What is also needed is a stable workforce that allows for better productivity and output, which will turn into more profits to invest in the private and mining sectors,” concludes Kloppers.