Pioneering South African online kitchen and homeware retailer Yuppiechef is opening more physical stores in an omni-channel retail push. The Cape-based group announced on Tuesday that it will be opening its first stores in the Johannesburg market later this month.
Two new stores are set to open – at Mall of Africa and Sandton City – on Friday, June 28, extending Yuppiechef’s physical store foray. The group opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Cape Town two years ago, after its founders, Andrew Smith and Shane Dryden realised that physical stores would give the group access to a bigger market beyond just online.
Many digital natives, including Smith, once claimed that ecommerce would take over and spell the death of physical retail and even shopping centres, but have now become omni-channel retail evangelists.
“We believe the future of retail is ‘omni-channel’, which means a combination of physical stores and e-commerce,” says Smith, who is CEO of Yuppiechef.
The opening of Yuppiechef’s first two stores in Gauteng will bring the number of its physical stores to six. Its current stores are all in the Western Cape, with the most recent opening at the V&A Waterfront in October last year.
Smith tells Moneyweb there are plans for further expansion through its physical store rollout. “For now, we’re focusing on getting our stores in Johannesburg up and running. We’d love to have Yuppiechef stores all around South Africa in the coming years.”
Yuppiechef is a privately-run group that was launched by Smith and Dryden as an online retail start-up in 2006 out of Smith’s home in Cape Town. Today it is a multi-million-rand enterprise with an employee base that is set to hit 150 this year.
Asked about Yuppiechef’s move into brick-and-mortar stores, Smith remarks: “A large portion of the South African market is not comfortable shopping online, or at least not for everything on every occasion. Our goal is to make the shopping experience as easy as possible for our customers, whether they want to shop online or in-store. They can browse actual products on the shelf, speak to a shop assistant and then choose to have their purchase delivered directly to their home.
“It’s a seamless integration of the physical and online world.”
He adds: “We no longer consider Yuppiechef an ecommerce company, but just a retailer, and so our competitors are traditional retail chains, general online stores and specialist kitchen retailers. There is an overlap in some of the brands we sell, but we consider our specialist kitchen and home range the biggest in the country.”
According to Smith, Yuppiechef sells more than 10 000 kitchen and home products that have been carefully curated for quality and uniqueness.
“Our top sellers always include the classics like KitchenAid mixers, Wüsthof knives, Sagenwolf cookware and our League of Beers craft beer cases. With a shift towards environmental consciousness, the rising stars are reusable straws (silicon and stainless options), Zoku water bottles and SodaStream,” he says.
On Yuppiechef’s target market, Smith says its customer base is diverse in both location and demographic, with deliveries across SA as well as a few neighbouring countries. “Our customers are anyone who enjoys making and sharing food at home. We have had strong support from Cape Town and Gauteng, which is why we started our physical store expansion here.”
Where can we expect Yuppiechef in the next decade?
Smiths enthuses: “Ten years ago we had only just moved out of my lounge, so 10 years from now feels like a long way away. A successful transition into a national omni-channel retailer is our immediate goal, and we’ll see where our journey takes us from there.”
Moneyweb reported last month about SA’s largest online retailer Takealot’s roll-out of its first 30 physical collection points around the country. It remains to be seen whether the Naspers-owned business will eventually start rolling out fully-fledged physical stores too, or perhaps turn some of its pick-up points into stores.
The move to omni-channel retail by both traditional retailers like Pick n Pay and online retailers like Yuppiechef has gained momentum globally over the last few years. According to a report published in December by commercial real-estate services group JLL in the US, ecommerce retailers plan to open 850 physical stores in the next five years.
“The clicks-to-bricks retailers’ expansion plans demonstrate the value these brands place on having a physical presence with which to engage shoppers,” notes JLL.