Midas, the flagship franchise of the family, is a retail store designed around the needs of any vehicle owner, focusing on various product ranges, from motor parts and accessories through to lifestyle equipment. There are over 300 franchised outlets in Southern Africa, including Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The mechanism of distribution to owner managed retail stores continues to be the most successful and efficient. the equity-building menu for the brand is a combination of print media, online presences, sponsorships, radio and TV campaigns with the return on investment being increased member sales.
In addition 25 million seasonal brochures are produced and distributed every year to drive consumer feet into the stores and increase franchise retail sales. A key differentiator for the Midas stores is a focus on quality product, from both the global brands and the Groups’ own private label brands. This allows the Midas franchise network to offer countrywide guarantees against manufacturers’ defects on all product it sells.
“The first day’s sales brought in a grand total of fifteen cents for a fuse, obviously my grandfather was not impressed!” laughs Erin Walker, MD of The Walker Group. The Walker Group – a family concern – owns, among other business, two Midas stores in the Northern Cape town of Upington.
From humble beginnings, their first partnership with Midas was a corner of their Total filling station’s shop, allocated to the display of a few basic spares- Upington Midas has grown into impressive, stand-alone businesses and a staff complement of 50.
“My grandfather had grown tired of my father, Eric’s “jolling” in Stellenbosch and RTB’d him back to Upington to help with the family business” explains Erin. Eric’s time spent at Maties however, was not all Merlot and mayhem. His business degree has clearly stood him in good stead in growing Upington Midas into what it is today. Son Eric’s own solid work ethic- subsequent tertiary education degrees- has made Eric and Erin a formidable team.
“Why are we successful? Hard work, great staff, and striving to keep up with new products, would be my guess. We welcome the challenges and changes in this unpredictable market. We’re able to recognize which products are going to be big sellers and have them in stock when customers start asking for them,” says Eric Walker. He goes on to confirm what many successful Midas store owners have alluded to- make sure you’re employing the right people and ensure you’re treating them well.
I asked Erin, what in his opinion, were the benefits of belonging to the Midas Franchise. His answer: “Supply chain efficiency, communicative networks, the best brand names and marketing support. And of course, the wonderful trips organized by Africa Automotive Aftermarket Solutions (AAAS). This is where we really get to know the AAAS family. And that’s what its become, a family. Its not just a business contract, it’s a group of like-minded people who love what they do.”
Erin’s advice to anyone interested in opening a Midas store promotes common sense and maturity. “Do as much homework as you can and talk to other store owners. You’ll save 90% of your problems by hiring the right people. The rest is stock control and sell, sell, sell. You’ll need to keep you eyes and ears open- looking for trends and new products- if you want to stay ahead in this competitive market.” He explains.
The Walker family are bone and blood Northern Cape-ers. Their commitment to this beautiful and charismatic part of South Africa seems to know no bounds. Furthermore, they believe strongly in giving back. We’re blessed to be able to support many of the schools and charities in the area,” concludes Eric.
Upington has one of the longest runways in the world. At 4900m its long enough to support an emergency Space Shuttle landing. It seems a little excessive when considering the relatively small population and the size of the aircraft that normally use the airport. That is until you compare it to the Walker family ethos and Walkers Midas. If you’re going to do something, do it properly.