Only the sky is the limit for OK Zimbabwe Limited

By Maxwell Mapungwana
OK Zimbabwe Limited is the longest establishment chain in the country, having been in existence since 1942. The group has over 50 branches nationwide and analysis through supplier statistics indicates that the supermarket chain maintains its market share over the past years.
The group’s business mix has always been dominated by its supermarket lines, however it was also a major player in furniture retail until 2003 at which

time a strategic decision was taken to sell the furniture business to a local private company, a decision which proved to be very wise in the tumultuous aftermath of the infamous monetary policy statement of 2003.
Since its inception, the giant supermarket chain has been growing in leaps and bounds, but things almost came to a head at the height of banks’ liquidity crisis when one of the financial institutions which it was doing business with was placed under curatorship.
OK Zimbabwe Limited says although it was exposed due to the collapsed CFX Bank, which was placed under curatorship in December 2004 to the tune of ZW$10.3 billion, lack of accessing its funds did not in any way hampered the company’s ability to operate normally.
Market sentiments then about the retail giant’s exposure to the collapsed CFX Bank had for some weeks seen OK’s share price remaining suppressed and the clarification of the amount exposed was set to warm investors’ sentiments on the group’s share price.
To keep itself competitive the group from time to time take time to refurbish several of its stores nationwide.
In 2005, it set aside ZW$30 billion for the refurbishment of several of its stores nationwide.
“We are looking at refurbishing four of our stores countrywide in a move to boast our sales and improve the retail standards,” said Mr. Willard Zireva OK Zimbabwe Limited CEO.
Among the stores that were refurbished were Chisipite in Harare and Lobengula branch in Bulawayo. It is also then that the company announced its plans to expand into the regional market, following in the footsteps of South Africa’s Shoprite which has branches in Botswana, Zambia and Uganda among other countries.
OK Zimbabwe Limited opened its first express branch in Bulawayo in 2006. The branch is unique in that it is convenient  in terms of shopping and location, meaning it is situated at a place where people just rush in and purchase what they need at anytime. The brand was started in 2001.
In 2009 Shoprite chairman Mr. Cristo Wiese said his company was going ahead with its R167 million deal to buy OK Zimbabwe Limited, as their investments would not be at risk as perceived in some quarters as South African investors continued to make inroads into Zimbabwe following the formation of the inclusive government which saw the country starting to regain its image as a good investment destination, however Shoprite Holdings later wriggled off the hook two months later.
Last year OK Zimbabwe Limited roped in an international investment partner to raise more than US$20 million to recapitalise the group in a bid to stave off cut-throat competition in the retail sector.
Early this year the listed retailer acquired two Makro operations in Zimbabwe from South African Massmart and has since embarked on a rebranding campaign. The two operations consists of 8 000 square metres and 5 000 square metres of retail space in Harare and Bulawayo respectively.
Massmart’s CEO Mr. Grant Pattison said last year the company was divesting from Zimbabwe because of lack of clarity over the indigenisation and economic empowerment legislation. Ironically, South African retailers such as Pick n Pay, which recently raised its stake in TM Supermarkets to 49 percent from 25 percent have been angling for the local market.
The recently acquired operations have been branded OK Mark. Mr. Willard Zireva the CEO said they had retained Makro employees for OK Mark. “We have also assumed the employment of over 200 workers which enables us to retain key skills in the business and ensure job security for others,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s largest retailer contributes frequently to initiatives aimed at improving the community, the company operates in annually by donating in cash and kind to community projects such as sports, charities for orphaned and homeless children, education, health, student employment and environmental projects.
The company pioneered the senior citizens discount programme in Zimbabwe, where senior citizens over the age of 65 enjoy discounts of up to 10 percent on their monthly purchases. They also enjoy a cup of tea on designated senior citizens days in any OK Zimbabwe Limited branch.
This programme was designed to relieve the plight of the elderly in the country. This unique offer has been running for over 25 years in all OK Zimbabwe Limited countrywide.
One of OK Zimbabwe Limited major annual highlights is the OK Grand Challenge where lucky shoppers walk away with fabulous prizes among them some latest vehicle models, household electric appliances, furniture, houses, residential stands, cash prices among others.