Business Maverick


Shoprite’s choice to go plain and simple with ‘Uniq’ clothing may help it stand out from crowd

Shoprite’s choice to go plain and simple with ‘Uniq’ clothing may help it stand out from crowd
(Photo: Unsplash / Marcus Loke)

South Africa’s biggest grocery retailer is dipping its toes into fashion with the launch of a chain of clothing stores it says are devoted to ‘simplicity, comfort, superior fabrics and value’.

Food may be an essential and clothing a discretionary purchase, but for retailers in South Africa, the clothing business is becoming increasingly appetising.

For one, clothing doesn’t spoil, so it is not as reliant on a stable energy supply as perishable goods. For another, even when times are lean, people still need fresh gear. 

Shoprite is dipping its toes into fashion retail with the launch of Uniq, a chain of stores it says is devoted to “simplicity, comfort, superior fabrics and value”.

The first of nine standalone Uniq stores opened on Thursday, 30 March, in Canal Walk in Cape Town. The other eight stores are scheduled to open in April. These include another in Cape Town at the Table Bay Mall; two in KwaZulu-Natal (Ballito Junction Mall in Ballito and Galleria in Amanzimtoti); one in Mpumalanga (Secunda Mall); one in Johannesburg (Chartwell Corner in Dainfern); and three in Pretoria (the Mall@Reds Shopping Centre, the Grove and Menlyn Park).

Uniq says it has sourced materials “engineered for comfort” and it will be the first local clothing retailer to introduce Supima cotton to the mass market. Supima is American-grown cotton that apparently has longer fibres than regular cotton, which makes it stronger, softer and better able to retain colour.

The launch range includes baby clothes; children’s basics in muted tones; adult T-shirts (priced from R149); modal-blend leggings that contain 10% elastane; brushed fleece joggers; knits; sleepwear; fleece-tech jackets, hoodies and corduroy pants; as well as responsibly sourced down-filled puffer jackets.

Uniq is the first clothing retailer in South Africa to offer self-service checkout. Customers can scan and pay for their items, which have smart tags with advanced radio-frequency identification (a type of tracking system that uses smart barcodes).

So, what’s unique about Uniq? Unlike Cotton On, Pick n Pay Clothing, Ackermans, Pep and Mr Price, Uniq is deliberately plain and more classic than fast fashion. It’s pitched at the middle- to upper-middle market (ie Woolworths shoppers), which is generally prepared to spend a little more on durable quality.

Its stores offer premium basics in a variety of plain colours and fabrics that are intended for versatility and pairing, for mixing and matching.

Contrary to what the name might suggest, Uniq’s clothing is designed to provide a blank canvas – indistinctive, with no funky designs, prints or other distracting features.

This approach, of blending in and adapting, might well allow Uniq to stand out from the crowd. BM/DM


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