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The sassy South African retailer riding the wellness wave

With its smart store vibe and skilfully curated product offer, South African retailer Wellness Warehouse has been creating quite an impact on the country’s natural and organic channel. 

Wellness Warehouse is the combined inspiration of brothers Sean and Carlos Gomes. Sean is a medical doctor with a passion for preventative health and Carlos is a pioneer and health-obsessed visionary with bags of retail experience (the Gomes family previously founded and then sold on home improvement chain De La Rey).

When the two brothers started looking at promising sectors for new retail ventures they saw an opportunity in South Africa’s growing natural organic market. In a radio interview with Cape Talk last year, Sean explained the thinking behind the Wellness Warehouse concept: “So much chronic ill health is rooted in poor diet and lifestyle choices. We wanted to create a platform that would educate and inform people about how to make good lifestyle choices”.

The business concept they created is based on offering a “360º approach to wellness – a holistic, sustainable and transformative approach that delivers results by uniting people and product through experience”. 

The business concept …is based…a ‘360º approach to wellness – a holistic, sustainable and transformative approach that delivers results by uniting people and product through experience’.”

The first store opened in 2007. Today there are 28 Wellness Warehouse stores, mostly concentrated in and around Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The product offer spans food (organic, Fairtrade, free-from), natural health products, beauty and eco lines with a sourcing policy that “emphasizes eco-ethics, environmental awareness, social accountability and responsible consumerism”.

The store offer has been widened in several stores with addition of Wellness cafés – some offering a full eat-in menu, others a smaller food-to-go range. More recently an online store has been launched, reflecting the ‘omnichannel’ business model that Wellness Warehouse is building. It also publishes a stylish customer magazine, Wellness.

With its current small-medium format stores, much of Wellness Warehouse’s success is down to its product edit. A key customer message is that “we check the labels so that you don’t have to”. The business says it has earned the trust of customers by ensuring “complete honesty and transparency with our business principles, prices and product choices”. That combination has helped Wellness Warehouse quickly establish itself as a destination retailer for South Africa’s growing ranks of conscious consumers. 

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Writer & Editor
Jim Manson is editor-in-chief of Diversified Communications UK‘s natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, and World Bank Urban Age

Articles by Jim Manson

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