Advertise with



Woolworths was founded in 1931 by Max Sonnenberg. His belief that success lies in providing customers with superior quality merchandise at reasonable prices has been instrumental in establishing Woolworths as one of South Africa’s leading retail chains – a benchmark for excellence and an icon of quality. 


Woolworths core philosophy is underpinned by quality, offering customers consistently high quality merchandise at affordable prices and incorporating innovative developments across the business. Building lifetime relationships with customers remains critical to the business’ success, ensuring that we understand their needs and meet these needs with ever increasing consistency.

Woolworths core customer is discerning, loyal and not afraid to make her views known if her local store is not meeting expectations. Woolworths works hard to build long-term relationships with customers, listening to what they have to say and consistently providing the right product and service to meet their needs. Woolworths believes that consistent delivery against its brand values – quality, innovation, value for money, integrity, service, energy and sustainability – is the way to earn this customer trust. 


Overall, Woolworths Retail achieved an operating margin of 8.7%, up from 7.0% in 2010 and ahead of the 3-year target of 8% set in June 2009. The focus on productivity to achieve positive operating margin leverage remains a key commitment.

We expect sales in comparable stores to continue to show modest growth, and whilst new store development in South Africa slows in the next three years, we will be expanding the store footprints of our existing portfolio. We plan to add between 6% and 7% to Clothing and General merchandise trading space in each of the next three years.

In addition to this space growth, the acquisition of 23 formerly franchised stores during the year, together with a further 31 stores acquired after the year end, will add approximately R450 million to Clothing and General merchandise sales in 2012, and R150 million to profit before tax.

We expect sales in comparable stores to continue to show modest growth, and our emphasis will be on opening fewer but larger Food stores and expanding the footprints of our existing portfolio as we find that customers are willing to increase the content of their basket within a larger store environment that provides a more complete product range. We plan to open six new Food stores (in addition to two full line stores) in 2012, a further five stores in 2013 and four in 2014 (with four full line stores opening). This will add 8% to total trading space in 2012, 7% in 2013 and 5% in 2014. 


The first Woolworths store opened its doors to the public in Cape Town in October 1931. Since then, we’ve been building on our reputation for superior quality, exciting innovation and excellent value.

Founder Max Sonnenberg faced uncertain economic times when he captured the public’s imagination with a dynamic store policy that set Woolworths apart from its competitors. Three years later, a second branch opened in Durban, with another two in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg a year later. Over the past 80 years, our unique formula has seen the number of stores grow to over 400 across South Africa, Africa and the Middle East.

Keen to attract and retain the best retail professionals, Woolworths was among the first local retailers to offer employees a pension fund, medical aid and maternity leave.

Not just a forward thinking employer, Woolworths was also an early adopter of technology. A lease agreement for the first computer was agreed to with National Cash Registers (NCR) in the late 60s, and Woolworths was already using a computerised merchandising system by the early 1970s.

This dynamic thinking extends to Woolworths product offering as well. For example, in 1974, Woolworths became the first South African retailer to introduce ‘sell by’ dates on food packaging. Convenience, too, has long been a watchword at Woolworths: we were the first South African retailer to offer pre-washed lettuce and machine-washable wool clothing to consumers.

Throughout our 80-year history, though Woolworths has grown, evolved and adapted to the changing world, the brand has remained true to its core values of quality and style, service, integrity, value, energy, innovation and sustainability.

In April 2007, we launched our Good business journey – a bold plan to make a difference in four key areas on our journey towards sustainability. Our comprehensive plan sets targets across four priority areas: transformation, social development, the environment and climate change. We are exceedingly proud to have been named international Responsible Retailer of the year in 2008 and 2010 in recognition of our efforts to help shape a better future for generations to come.


Related News