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Woolworths launches free Wi-Fi for shoppers

| Innovation and technology

Retailer Woolworths has launched free Wi-Fi in 85 stores nationally, with additional connections planned by early 2018, amid a continued shift towards online and mobile shopping platforms.

The retailer said it has experienced double-digit growth since the start of the holiday period in relation to its online sales, with over 50% of e-commerce purchases driven through mobile.

In preparation for a surge in online transactions, Woolworths noted that it has also launched its first dedicated warehouse, referred to as a “dark store” to provide the storage and delivery of online clothing, beauty and homeware products purchased.

This has also contributed to the drive in online sales, due to enhanced product availability coupled with investment in dedicated online stock support, it said.

Woolworths admitted that within a South African retail context, customer adoption of e-commerce relating to fashion and food has traditionally been limited. However, according to Stats SA, in 2015, e-commerce was valued at approximately R7.5.billion.

This according to online analyst, Arthur Goldstuck, still only represents approximately 1% of overall retail. However, the sector continues to grow rapidly, at a rate of approximately 20% annually.

Woolworths said it has seen online sales in items such as swimwear, beach accessories, table settings, beauty products, kids clothing, summer dresses and men’s shorts increase dramatically.

From a foods perspective, online sales in weekly staples such as bread, milk, meat and salads have increased exponentially, as well as holiday season items such as champagne and gifting items, it said.

For the year ended June 2016, Woolworths reported sales of R72.1 billion, and adjusted pre-tax profit of R6.04 billion.

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