AN EXCLUSIVE WITH DAVID PUTTER (DP) – SQ NATIONAL COUNCIL CHAIRMAN AND OWNER OF SQ GRAAFF-REINET AND MARIUS MOSTERT (MM) – OWNER OF SQ PONGOLA – AS SUPA QUICK REACHES A MOMENTOUS MILESTONE
This year, one of the country’s best loved franchise brands – Supa Quick (SQ) – is celebrating its 35th birthday. With more than 199 franchise outlets nationwide, this now well established retail brand pioneered the way for others to follow, in 1986, paving the way for a professional retail space that would mushroom across the country to include tyres as well as all underbody and affiliated services.
Two of the brands longest committed franchisees, David Putter from Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape Province and Marius Mostert, from Pongola KZN, took the time to tell us why they continue to remain loyal to the Supa Quick brand to this day.
SAT: Gentlemen, tell us about your early beginnings in the tyre business and what led to your involvement with the Supa Quick franchise retail brand.
DP: I became involved in the tyre market in 1974 with Graaff-Reinet Tyre Services, as it was called back then. My father initially bought Graaff-Reinet Tyre Services 1974. In 1977, my eldest brother, Willie, and his wife, Linnea, joined the business, eventually taking it over from my father. Willie signed up as one of the first Supa Quick franchisees and I took over from Willie, in August 1998, to continue the family business.
As a single shop owner, the introduction of a franchise concept such as SQ made complete sense as we would now be able to enjoy greater buying power to help us compete in a growing market. I signed up as one of the original franchisees in 1998 and have never looked back.
MM: My career with SQ began in Pongola in 2010, when the store still belonged to my brother. Starting off as a salesman, I eventually worked my way up to the level where I was able to acquire the business from my brother in 2019. Today, I am the proud owner of SQ Pongola.
How has the brand and its offering changed and evolved over the years?
DP: The first major change took place when the Japanese company, Bridgestone, acquired Firestone from Murray and Roberts. A new business culture was introduced by the new owners, which initially presented some challenges for the franchisees, ultimately resulting in a change in franchise management.
SQ franchisees have always been well established, representing a very strong brand. After much debate over a number of years, the franchisees lost exclusivity to the Bridgestone-Firestone brands as Bridgestone embarked on an Open Channel marketing drive. This new reality led to many changes, for both franchisor and the franchisees.
We weathered the storm, and under the leadership of CEO Jacques Fourie, and the subsequent appointment of Franchise Director, Morne Dreyer, the brand has been restructured so as to allow franchisees to conduct business in the full spectrum of services once again. A welcome development that enables us to compete in a very competitive market.
MM: For starters, if you take a look at the SQ logo – the old “Harryman” of the past 35 years – you will notice how this has changed and modernised over time. Now, it is simple and more effective and stands out better than any overcomplicated logos and slogans. The business itself has definitely changed into a consumer-conscious platform, with SQ catering for all market segments. Consumer safety is at the forefront, in tandem with continuously striving for exceptional service delivery and after sales service. At least, this is what we strive for, here at SQ Pongola.
What kind of support are you receiving from the SQ Franchisor?
DP: The quality, resilience and experience vested in the SQ franchisee is immense, as is the intellectual capital. SQ exist and progress because of the resilence, drive and experience vested in the business. It is them who built the name, provided service excellence and put in the effort that has made SQ the leading brand it is today. With this in mind, SQ are heavily vested in the role of the franchisee, continuing to support by way of a super strong brand that is beyond reproach, a partnership with a world class tyre supplier as well as access to all other products in the market.
MM: There is significant value in being part of this brand when one considers the marketing support we receive in the form of print media, social media, television radio and promotional material, particularly during the holiday season. Plus, SQ representatives regularly call on the franchisees to assist us in improving and growing our businesses, as a way to remain ahead of the competition.
How important is Bridgestone Firestone’s role?
DP: Bridgestone is one of the world’s leading tyre brands with product quality and support that is unsurpassed. Having primary access to this brand is a huge advantage in the marketplace.
MM: Our manufacturing partner plays a big role in our business. They have been providing their franchisees with endless assistance to develop and mould the SQ brand. To have a reputable brand like Bridgestone working together with SQ, makes for a winning recipe.
Is the competition fierce in your respective areas?
DP: The retail space is saturated. In Graaff-Reinet we were the first franchise brand to be established, followed duly by others, however, we maintain a respectful relationship with the opposition. Our biggest competition comes from nearby Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), however, where competition and price cutting are rife.
MM: There are four tyre shops in total in our small town of Pongola, which is more than enough. Over the years, we have seen tyre shops come and go. At one stage, there were seven tyre shops in town. Only three remained and a fourth one subsequently came along. I get along with all the tyre shop owners as I believe this to be important in a small community. We are constantly helping each other where we can.
What do you to differentiate from your competitors?
DP: In our specific part of the country, it remains critical for us to dabble in as many market segments as possible, especially with the agriculture market experiencing a downturn. We also offer a 24hour roadside breakdown service.
MM: We sell one of the most reputable brands in the market, namely Bridgestone-Firestone. Our shop has a sell-out percentage of 70%, of which we are proud. Additionally, we offer any affiliated service you can think of related to motor vehicles, aside from panel beating and auto electric work. I would like to think of SQ Pongola as the-one-stop shop for your car.
Marius, were you directly affected by the recent riots and looting in KZN?
Thankfully, here in Pongola, we were blessed to not have had a single shop looted. The community stood together, working hand in hand with the SAPS, SANDF, CFP, Taxi Association,
Municipality and the general public, guarding our town’s four entrances with armed men, to ensure no one could enter our town with ill intentions over that apocalyptic week we experienced in KZN. We could not trade for an entire week, but this was better than being looted and potentially losing our businesses.
That said, our prayers go out to those businesses that were looted.
SQ has embarked on a programme whereby we collect food for those affected throughout KZN. We are glad to be able to participate in this initiative.
How has Covid-19 impacted your businesses?
DP: The pandemic has compelled us to approach the business in a different and more creative way with respect to our cost structures and expenses. We reduced our staff complement by six people – all six found alternative employment in the area – which helped us to cut costs. Covid-19 combined with an eight-year drought here in the Karoo, has affected the trade, especially in the agricultural sector.
MM: Covid-19 has had a massive effect on our business. Our revenue has declined, so we are constantly coming up with innovative ways to generate business and entice customers to our store, by offering services such as sanitising their vehicles before delivery. We hope that value-adds such as this will keep customers safe and maintain that trusted relationship that was built over the years.
DP: On a positive note, our franchisor (SQ), is currently embarking on a national remodelling project of all the stores, in a drive to be even more customer-focused. Franchisees, in conjunction with SQ, are also focusing on stock management and buying smarter with a reduced turnover, in order to improve the buying process and boost growth percentage margins.
What would be your advice to a prospective franchisee that is considering joining the group?
DP: As mentioned earlier, a major reason behind my confidence in the SQ brand and its future, is the quality, resilience and experience vested in the SQ franchisee. The franchisor and franchisee working in unison is the key to even greater success. Potential franchisees who recognise and take advantage of this are well placed to succeed in this highly competitive
market, with the backing of a brand such as SQ.
In short, if you possess drive, entrepreneurship and a strong work ethic, you would make for a welcome and successful member of the Supa Quick group.
MM: For anyone looking to join the retail trade, my general advice would be to ensure you place a competent and trustworthy person at your sales counter. Having worked on the counter, I saw how easy it was to help oneself to the till. You would also need to have the systems in place to counter the possibility of theft. I have witnessed others opening tyre
shops in neighbouring towns, only to end up closing their doors as a result of not being involved in their businesses.
As for SQ, joining this dynamic franchise would be the best thing you could do. Before opening a retail store, do you homework in the area you are considering to set up shop. Make sure the traffic is there and that the area is not saturated.
Once you become an official SQ franchisee, maintain a strong and healthy relationship with the franchisor. Make use of all the advice and help they give you. Be present. Be involved in the day-to-day running of the business and you will be successful.