NOMPU SIZIBA: Pep Stores has come up with a way for consumers to help less well-off consumers with their shopping. What is this? Well, they call it Lay-by Buddy.
To tell us a bit more about the initiative, I’m joined on the line by Jaap Hamman, the CEO at Pep. Thank you so much Jaap, for joining us. This is a great initiative. How is it going to work in practice?
JAAP HAMMAN: Nompu, thank you for having me and hi there to all of your listeners. Yes, it’s a great initiative.
Maybe just a level of background on what inspired this. For starters, the purpose is really to make our customers look and feel good, and to make a difference in their lives. We’re always looking at different ways of coming out with new initiatives to delight them and really make a difference.
The beauty about this initiative is that it was actually a customer’s idea. It was a customer’s initiative. Back in 2019, one of our customers came into our Mossel Bay store and said, “We want to make a contribution to all of the outstanding lay-by debt of Pep customers”. With a lay-by transaction, you are allowed to purchase something and pay it off over four months – maybe school clothes, maybe baby clothes or even a blanket for the winter season. This customer came in and said “We want to make this contribution”. And then the customer started challenging other customers on the #imstaying platform and, as a result we saw more and more customers contributing to help other customers. It is wonderful to see that South Africans are out there looking for ways and means to help others – and using Pep as a mechanism to help other customers.
I can tell you this. I was in the Paarl store – I stay in Paarl in the Western Cape – and I went to that store. At that point there was a customer also doing it, making a contribution, and the staff phoned the lay-by customer about this contribution; it was really special. Such a customer at a point might have bought some baby clothes for their kids or their babies – such as a warm winter Babygro – and does not have the means to pay off the remaining debt. They will receive a call that: “It has been paid. You can come into the store and collect your merchandise.”
So at that point we realised it’s our responsibility to support it, to take part in it, and the Lay-By Buddy Initiative was born at the end of 2019.
NOMPU SIZIBA: How is it going to work in practice? If I come and do a bit of shopping at Pep, will I be asked, “Would you like to make a donation?” like they do at KFC when you buy chicken at the drive-by? How is it going to work in practice?
JAAP HAMMAN: Our objective was really to make it easy for the general public to make small contributions. So, in fact, as you go into the store you can contribute as little as R2. You can take some of your change and give it to our cashier; there’s a code for it and we will donate it to the Lay-by Buddy Fund. So, literally, the customer goes into the school and says: “I would like to make a contribution.” You can either go to the store and, as part of your transaction, make a donation, or you can go onto our website, www.pepstore.com and then go to the Lay-by Buddy initiative section of the website, www.pepstores.com/page/lay-by-buddy, and contribute as little as R20. It’s really about giving a little but helping a lot.
NOMPU SIZIBA: The principle is fantastic. But, you know, in South Africa we’ve all become very cynical. As people make their donations to this great cause, how will they know that the money that they’re contributing is going to the right purpose? What’s the longest Pep will hold those monies for before they distribute them to the beneficiaries, and so on?
JAAP HAMMAN: Nompu, that is an important question. As Pep we are a trusted brand. So what we do is, once we get the money, we try and allocate it as quickly as possible to customers within the next week. To date we’ve close to 3 000 donations, and close to R400/500 000. And we’ve also allocated our own funds, Pep funds – R1.5 million. It’s so pleasing to say that 16 000 customers have received that call with the good news: “Your lay-by debt has been settled and you can come into the store and pick up your parcel.”
There’s not really a direct line back to the donating customer on how they helped customers A, B and C. So the money goes into a pot and we randomly select lay-bys that are outstanding and send a voucher to those customers on an SMS, and those customers can go to the store and redeem the lay-by with that voucher.
NOMPU SIZIBA: And it’s already in effect. People who shop at Pep, and who are interested, can make their donations right away.
JAAP HAMMAN: Yes. It’s quite easy to do so. Like I say, when you do a normal purchase, or if you want to just make a donation of a fiver or R10, you can go into the store and do that. Or, if it’s easier for you to go onto our website, you can do it there as well. So it’s really just creating a platform where customers can help other customers. It is at a time when I think we all are going through different challenges, a difficult time, and it’s really a time to give, whichever way, small acts of kindness – a smile or being friendly or a helping hand, or making a small contribution to a platform like this where you know it’s going to somebody that really needs the money. So it is a time for giving. And I think we all do have the opportunity to make a difference in the world by these small acts of kindness.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Absolutely. I’m sure most of us support the idea. Thank you so much, Jaap, for your time. All the very best. That was Jaap Hamman, the CEO at Pep.