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FreshStop Fort Gale in Mthatha selected as International Convenience Retailer of the Year finalist

A FreshStop store in Mthatha has made the list of finalists for the 2018 International Convenience Retailer of the Year Awards. Now in its 9th year, the International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award recognises excellence in convenience and forecourt retailing on an international stage by celebrating the best convenience retail formats from around the world.
The NACS Insight industry body selected FreshStop at Caltex Fort Gale store in Mthatha, Eastern Cape - the only entry from Africa - to go up against convenience stores from India, Ireland, Norway, UK, Australia and Spain to battle it out for the top spot. The 2017 winner of the International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award was Spar Natural, a convenience store in Gran Canaria in Spain.

Localised offering

FreshStop was named International Convenience Retailer of the Year 2013 and has a network of 277 stores countrywide. Its Fort Gale store in Mthatha features a raft of ‘new to market’ facilities and services for the location, bringing a world-class food offering to a rural, underdeveloped area.

The site features the first American-themed diner in Mthatha and FreshStop Fort Gale is the first c-store to offer six takeaway food brands, all with a strong African flavour to suit the needs of the local market. It is the only c-store in the area with a covered, modern seating area, where diners can enjoy their meals; and it’s also the only c-store with free Wi-Fi in Mthatha as well as a specially-designed pause counter with electrical plug points; and it’s the first location in the area to offer premium barista coffee with its Seattle Coffee bar.

The Fort Gale FreshStop allows customers to freely walk through the store, which is in stark contrast to other shops in the area where shoppers can only purchase their goods through metal bars, with no access to the store itself. The outlet features FreshStop’s in-house radio in the customers’ local vernacular language.

The food range includes Crispy Chicken, Pitstop Café, Grill to Go, Hot Dog Cafe, Hooked On fish and chips, Seattle Coffee Company, fresh fruit and vegetables at competitive prices to appeal to lower income groups plus healthier options that include Snack on the Run, smoothies, juice and health bars.

“Having been the winner of this award in 2013, and a finalist in 2017, we are once again honoured to be listed among such fine international retailers and we hope to make South Africa and our continent proud with the innovation and quality of our offering,” says Joe Boyle, director of FreshStop.

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Community investment

The site is owned by the Ndamara Investment Company, a level 4 Black Economic Empowerment company that has been investing in the Mthatha area for the past 29 years. Since the site opened in May 2017, Ndamara has invested R40million, which has made a significant impact in less than a year. Further, Novate Fuel Solutions, an operations management company, has invested an additional R5.2million in the FreshStop convenience outlet; while total investment at the Fort Gale Junction, of which FreshStop is the anchor tenant, amounts to over R60m.

FreshStop says the Mthatha site has provided a much-needed boost to the local economy from an employment and people development perspective. Employment opportunities have been created in partnership with the Efata School for the Blind and Deaf in Mthatha, where the poverty rate is 65%. The unemployment rate is 66% and there’s just a 42% literacy rate.

The number of permanent staff at the site has increased from 31 to 54 employees, representing a 74% increase and, during peak season, an additional 12 short-term positions are created.

"The team is diverse – all ages, colours and educational backgrounds– with some even studying for their degrees while working full-time. FreshStop has a policy of growing and promoting staff from within and some staff members who started as cleaners are now cashiers, while some cashiers have progressed to admin manager roles," says the company.
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