Adapt or die – How two SA owned companies have survived lockdown

It’s becoming something of a fading memory now, but the lockdown announcement triggered a bout of panic buying in the UK. As the public stripped supermarket shelves bare and pubs, restaurants and bars closed indefinitely and we knew unequivocally life had changed. 

Amidst the chaos, businesses, particularly small independents, faced alarming uncertainty and it was difficult to imagine how anyone would survive, let alone thrive under such conditions! Yet, some have thrived. Particularly, two small SA-owned businesses that operate in the UK market.

This example  proves the maxim that ‘those who survive are the ones that most quickly adapt’. South African supermarket chain The Savanna and biltong brand, M-EAT!, reacted quickly and almost overnight pivoted their strategies, focusing on digital and logistics.

The Savanna, the go-to deli for South Africans living in the UK, operates eight stores at some of London’s busiest train stations. With nearly all stores forced to shut overnight turnover fell dramatically.

The company reacted swiftly by stepping up its digital marketing and using social media, to connect with customers who could no longer walk into a store. The Savanna moved almost all of its trading online. They stuck to regular, well-timed special offers of essential products and made sure they played a supporting role as we were all, literally, ‘in this together’. The Savanna made itself useful to a community who felt unsafe venturing outside. As a result, the company has grown its turnover without seeing a drop in like-for-like sales.

“Shifting quickly to a digitally-focused strategy was not without pitfalls. With great sadness we had to furlough our store staff and focus heavily on logistics to cater to our customers who, now more than ever, need a taste of home,” adds CEO of The Savanna, Lisa Gardshol.

The story of M-EAT! Biltong, is a similar one. The subscription biltong service was only recently established in 2019, but saw their sales grow three-fold as the lockdown took effect. As a high-protein healthy snack, they deliver six flavours of premium biltong and repositioning biltong as an essential snack for those working from home and doing home workouts paid off, as subscribers grew and demand increased. A social media campaign that communicated the brand’s health benefits, along with digital marketing proved that the impossible was after all, entirely possible.

Image provided by M-EAT

Mark Arasaratnam, M-EAT!’s CEO adds: “Every new brand wants to experience explosive growth however, growth at any cost isn’t what we aimed for. We focussed on customer needs using the right channels whilst watching all our metrics in near real time. Whilst we are data-led, we strive to leave room for creativity and really care about our customers”.

As the UK lockdown continues both brands forge ahead paving a way for other small independents to follow. Proving that what has always been true remains true today – fortune favours the brave.

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