Woolworths is spelt Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y
Planning to do business with Woolworths? Then make sure your product is perfect, without a hint of blemish. Otherwise, forget it. The emphasis, in this high-end retail store, is on top quality – with no compromises.
Much has changed in the world over the past 80 years, including the need for sustainable quality consumer goods. All too aware of customers’ increasing discernment, Woolworths has worked hard to develop a brand that guarantees superiority, in every aspect.
Founded in 1931 by Max Sonnenberg during the Great Depression, Woolworths started off as a general dealer, but grew to become a major contender in the food and clothing industries. Sonnenberg believed that success lay in providing customers with superior quality merchandise at reasonable prices: his formula ensured Woolworths would become one of South Africa’s leading retail chains.
Today, it boasts more the 400 stores in Africa and the Middle East, and through one of its subsidiaries, its influence also extends to New Zealand, Singapore and Australia. It is now one of the top 40 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
The company prides itself on notching up numerous firsts within the industry, for instance, introducing the now commonly seen “sell-by” dates on its food packaging, as well as pre-washed lettuce. Says one KwaZulu-Natal based vegetable supplier: “If there was one small caterpillar in the vegetables I delivered, Woolworths would return the entire batch. There is no tolerance for any imperfections, including natural ones. Quality is key.”
In its efforts to deliver customers the best fresh produce possible, Woolworths has introduced what it calls Farming for the Future, which meets the challenge of “producing more while using less”. This pioneering farming method allows Woolworths farmers to grow food sustainably and in harmony with nature, starting with building and maintaining the soil. The premise is, the healthier the soil, the easier it is to retain water, so irrigation costs less and there are significantly less chemical interventions like synthetic fertilisers and herbicides.
This method has been used by Woolworths’s farmers for the past five years and all of the store’s locally cultivated fresh produce is grown this way. Farming for the Future has also been expanded into horticulture, and Woolworths now plans to expand this programme into its dairy product range.
In its recent chairman’s report the company says: “Experience has shown that most sustainability challenges cannot be solved by one company acting alone, and we are excited about the support we have received from our suppliers in implementing programmes like Farming for the Future, and the many things we have learnt from their efforts.”
The company has also reintroduced its Earth Friendly range of household cleaning products, personal care and baby toiletry products, which are made with biodegradable ingredients and essential oils – all sourced from Mother Nature herself.
Woolworths is also the first major South African retailer to use post-consumer recycled beverage bottles made from polythelene terephthalate (PET) packaging. These rPet fibres are also used for filling in Woolworths’s duvets and pillows, as well as reusable bags.
One solid piece of proof of the retailer’s constant pursuance of quality is that 20 Woolworths products were finalists in six different categories of the 2013 Fairlady Consumer Awards. Other awards notched up over the years include International Responsible Retailer of the Year for 2012, 2010 and 2008. This acknowledges the company’s commitment to sustainability through its Good Business Journey.
The latter is the company’s plan “to make a difference in six key areas, all of them challenges facing not only South Africa, but the world at large; energy, water, waste, sustainable farming, sustainable fishing, transformation and social development”.
Founder Sonnenberg would be truly proud of Woolworths today: his maxim, back then, was to provide customers with superior quality merchandise at reasonable prices. The retailer is doing just that – and more.