Pep Clothing (PepClo), a division of Pepkor Holdings, is celebrating 50 years of production in South Africa. The company - which is SA's largest clothing manufacturer under one roof, employing just over 2,000 people - has reached this milestone birthday despite operating in a strained garment manufacturing environment over the last few decades.
Affordable school uniforms
Based in Parow, Cape Town, PepClo’s four factory divisions manufacture basic school clothing including trousers, shirts, dresses and a range of knitted underwear. Annually, PepClo produces more than 1 million undergarments and 10 million school uniforms of which 5 million are shirts and 4 million are shorts and trousers.
CEO for PepClo, Marthie Raphael, says, “Our garments have become so entrenched in our society that few people question where it started or where our products are made. Our school clothing is sold through Pepkor’s retailer Pep, providing Student Prince school clothes to millions of South African children.”
Pepkor brands overall sell one billion products annually through its 5,000 stores across 12 African countries. Coupled with various payment methods, more than 400 million transactions occur annually and the company currently employs 49,000 people.
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It’s part of Pepkor’s philosophy to provide basic school uniforms as inexpensively as possible to the children of South Africa. Through the group’s global sourcing capability and efficient supply chain, it is committed to finding ways of easing the increasing financial strain for its customers, who are the first to feel the pressure of rising fuel, electricity and food costs. This, together with streamlined processes and highly skilled employees, have allowed PepClo to continue making quality garments as cost-effectively as possible.
In 2018 PepClo also opened a flip flop factory, which employs nearly 40 people today. The production of flip-flops is a huge success, increasing the number of pairs from 1.5 to 3.8 million in one year.
Supportive work environment
For many years the local clothing manufacturing industry has been battling the influx of cheap imports, which has made it incredibly difficult for South African manufacturers to expand. Last year, local industry analyst Simon Appel stated
that in 15 years, South Africa has probably lost somewhere between 160,000 to 170,000 jobs; but within the last 18 months, there has been an uptick.
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The majority of PepClo’s employees are locals or from surrounding communities in Cape Town. Over the years the company has worked to provide a safe, stable and supportive work environment for employees, many of whom come from disadvantaged communities.
Morné Bosman says, “I started as a general labourer and was promoted to a team leader a year ago. I find it very exciting and very interesting to have more exposure to the business. I love the challenges that come with the responsibility. I’m thankful for the fact that PepClo still promotes people, even though I thought I might be too old.”
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PepClo's Raphael adds, “We make a difference in people’s lives and in the community that we serve. We contribute to the growth of our employees who are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, leaders in communities and mentors to children. The PepClo community is very strong with many employees having more than 30 years of service. This is a big part of why PepClo remains successful fifty years on."
"One of our strengths is that the people we employ are also our customers, which gives us great insight into the requirements of our customers, and we can align our values to theirs.”