The power of independence

As a cooperative buying group, members enjoy much more than simply profit. EST maintains a low profile and prefers action over talking.  

Louis Greeff, managing director at EST
Louis Greeff, managing director at EST

Louis Greeff, managing director at EST says, “EST exists today for exactly the same reason when it was started by independent traders. It was felt by independents that supplier benefits were being passed on to chain stores. 

To compete with chains, these independents needed to pool their purchasing resources, so they could negotiate with suppliers from a stronger position.  The situation still exists today and will persist – the need will simply increase.”

Elite Star Trading Africa (EST) 

EST was established in 2007 as a co-operative buying group, empowering small and independent FMCG retailers. This was as a direct result of the plight of small businesses being dominated by large chain groups who ruled the market to the virtual exclusion of the smaller players. 

The EST strategy for growth emphasises increased turnover within the current member base, as well as expansion of the member footprint, enhanced warehousing, distribution and re-distribution capabilities, targeted regional ranging and specialist category expansion, developing a consummate customer understanding and enhanced customer communication, both at group and member level. 

The groups’ focus remains on using its buying power to achieve best-in-class trading terms to optimise profitability both for itself and its member base. In addition, a relentless drive to increase sales in sub-Saharan Africa is a primary pillar of the group’s expansion strategy, with the Elite Star member base firmly focused on the African market, based primarily on the development of member export capabilities. 

The business has two operating divisions:  EST FMCG represents the group’s food and grocery business whilst Temblor Trading (trading as EST Building and Hardware), a specialist building supplies division, represents independent hardware wholesalers and retailers. Both divisions have a prominent footprint in South Africa, neighbouring states and other sub-Saharan African countries. 

EST Building and Hardware 

The Hardware and Building Supplies division was established in 2012, following the success of the group in the FMCG market. All businesses within Temblor Trading – trading as EST Building and Hardware operate as independent owner-managed organisations, where members have access to a voluntary portion of a 50% shareholding in Temblor Trading. Dividends are paid to members based on its contribution to annual purchases from preferred suppliers.  

Merchandising director, Rob Suttle
Merchandising director, Rob Suttle

 Merchandising director, Rob Suttle says, “The Building and Hardware division offers members access to leading brands and suppliers regardless of their size. Their combined group buying power helps retailers to remain independent and competitive at the same time, in a market dominated by large chains. Thus, they get the advantage of a big group without losing their identity or individuality. This is important because many are family run businesses that have a very strong and personal bond with their customer base, some spanning a few generations. The EST system gives them continuity to maintain this advantage that many chains lose. All the while EST members benefit from extensive available experience plus the simple, affordable and transparent support system the group operates.” 

No centralised supplier accounts are run by the group – each member is responsible for its own financial and credit relationship with suppliers. Members do, however, benefit from trading terms negotiated at a group level. The team at EST Building aims to make it as economical as possible for the retailer and suppliers to become partners. 

While on the subject of partners, EST maintain a philosophy of win-win in a triangular configuration that includes their 888 members, 383 suppliers and of course the huge consumer base that completes the triangle.  

EST Head Office
EST Head Office

How retail members benefit from EST: 

• Group-negotiated supplier trading terms 

• Access to volume-based buying power 

• Improved profitability 

• Compete favourably against big brands 

• Keep direct accounts with suppliers 

• Stay independent and retain your own brand. 

The suppliers benefit from:  

• Gain access to hundreds of EST members 

• Be part of regular B2B promotions 

• Simplify the sales process 

• Run competitions amongst EST members 

• Grow sales and drive volumes 

• Influence behaviour – of both members as well as consumers. 

However, it is not all just hard work and no play within EST Building and Hardware. Working in retail is demanding and quite often stressful. EST understands this very well and as a result they have annual breakaways to alleviate the pressure that the market forces onto their members and suppliers. To this end EST hold annual events through which members benefit based on performance that includes trips abroad, prizes that can be won. and of course a charity golf day as part of its social responsibility programme. At the end of each year EST also hosts a breakfast event to which members are invited to listen to authoritative personalities and to relax. Suppliers also get an opportunity to meet and greet the members via the annual shows held in major centres throughout South Africa. 

“If you feel that business is getting too complicated and demanding on your own and that the market is pressuring you out of profit margins or even access to top brands, then you should consider giving EST Building and Hardware a call, says Suttle.  

For more information… 

Call: 011-383-1900 

Email: [email protected] 

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za