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Family businesses core of township revival

| Store Openings

Gauteng townships will soon see an explosion of Pick n Pay spaza shops as the drive to revive the township economy in partnership with the provincial government intensifies.

At least four stores are operational in Soweto, one each in the West Rand's Carletonville and Kagiso, and one in the Vaal. The spaza shops were converted into Pick n Pay Markets in a pilot project.

The supermarket chain confirmed eight more stores were in the pipeline and would be completed by the end of the year.

The conversion of spaza shops forms part of a partnership between the Gauteng department of economic development and Pick n Pay entered into last year.

Economic development MEC Lebogang Maile said he wanted to see township spaza shops owned by locals thrive.

Nkululeko Mbhele, who runs the Emabheleni Pick n Pay Market in Rockville, Soweto, described the conversion of their family store as an "amazing experience".

The family had been running the business since 1935.

Their store sold basic commodities such as maize meal, rice, fish and chips and kotas, and other township favourites, but it has now grown to include fruits, vegetables and also features a liquor store.

"The future looks as bright as it can come. We are even looking at opening another one," he said.

Mbhele, who started working at the family business during weekends before he was even a teenager, said he has learnt that administration amounts to 50% of the business. "Prior to the conversion, I would say administration amounted to just 10%."

The shop, situated a stone's throw from the famous Regina Mundi Church, was a hive of activity when Sowetan visited it. Customer Teko Mokgotho-Nkosi said now they could get fresh goods without taking a taxi to a shopping mall. "The prices here are reasonable and most importantly, we get fresh bread and fresh fruits nearer to our homes."

Ethiopian shopkeeper Samson Ibrahim, who operates a spaza shop around the corner from the market, agreed the Pick n Pay shop had brought competition for his shop.

Maile said more roll-outs would come based on the successes of the stores taking part in the pilot project.

Pick n Pay deputy CEO Richard van Rensburg said the latest shop conversion was completed last month in Kagiso. "There will be 15 converted [stores] by the end of 2017 . The stores are designed to deliver great value to customers in conveniently located, well-stocked stores.

"Goods are competitively priced," Van Rensburg said.

Maile said the initiative was a "practical implementation of Gauteng's township economy revitalisation strategy", which was aimed at changing the structure of the province's economy and reviving the productive capacity of the township economy.

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