CityDia is proving itself as a community-driven and people-centric retailer, the company seeking to build on its footprint of stores across Accra, Kyebi and Kumasi
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Josh Hyland
For centuries open markets and street vending have been the mainstay of Ghanaian retail.
Even today, street-based purchasing and over-the-counter shops account for around 95 percent of the sector, the remaining five percent categorised by what is known as organised, or formal retail.
However, the industry as a whole is a fast growing one, and the formal segment represents a huge opportunity to drive progress, an opportunity not lost on João Rente Correia, General Manager of CityDia Supermarkets (Ghana).
“There is room for expansion, as an ever-growing middle class and a large young urban population are driving forces for the growth of organised retail,” he explains.
“A more informed and critical customer, the demand for a continuous and sustained offer, quality assurance along the supply chain of the purchased products and a comfortable and accessible shopping experience will be the differentiators and catalysts for the development of formal retail in Ghana.”
CityDia, the result of a partnership between the Economic Distribution Company Ghana (ECODI) and international food retailer Dia Group, has been a leading force in this transition since it began operating in the country in 2016.
“The informal market does still play a very predominant role on the African continent and particularly in Ghana,” Correia adds, “but, consistently, we are witnessing a transition from consumers looking for different options to make their purchases.
“The challenge is for retailers to make the same affordable offer in a comfortable and modern environment without losing the cultural identity of the open market, so present and cherished in Ghanaian consumer habits.
“Our goal was to bring in world-class methodologies and technologies, promoting a modern retail experience for Ghanaians and contributing to the development of the economy, namely by fostering employment. We want to be close to people and help improve lives.”
CityDia currently operates 17 stores, 15 of which are in the capital city Accra and one apiece in Kyebi and Kumasi.
Priding themselves on a quality, comfortable, hygienic and affordable shopping experience, these outlets stock a wide range of Dia-branded products (food and non-food) along with numerous other brands and fresh produce which is exclusively sourced through local suppliers.
Goods distributed via a central warehouse which receives, handles and dispatches items on a daily basis, an operation which, combined with those at head office and across the store network, relies on a dedicated cohort of 263 employees.
“I want to thank this fantastic team that strives every day and goes above and beyond to ensure that our customers return, securing our joint growth and success,” Correia says. “I am very proud to share our victories, lessons learned and future challenges. Without them, it would not be possible.”
Correia, a retail veteran, joined the organisation in September 2018.
“I have been working in the retail industry for over 20 years and if there is anything that can be said about this industry, it is that every day is different and challenging,” he continues.
“Customers visit stores expecting to satisfy their needs and it is the responsibility of the various players to rise to the challenge and exceed their expectations. This is only possible with a well-developed, differentiated and innovative value offering, motivated teams and a focus on customer service.
“It is these characteristics that make me continue to feel passionate about this industry. Being able to be part of the development of this industry, in a country with such huge potential as Ghana, was what made the difference when I decided to embrace this challenge.”
CityDia provides the perfect platform for Correia to impart his passion for retail.
Operating under the motto of ‘low price, better quality’, the company is working to provide not only value for money, but an attractive, comfortable and accessible shopping experience that is on the doorstep of communities all over the country.
For example, fresh meat products are now sold in several CityDia stores which are known for their cleanliness, providing an alternative to open markets which have historically monopolised these sales.
The primary motivator for Correia, however, is developing what he describes as a closeness to Ghanaian people.
“With each opening we create jobs and contribute to community development,” he says. “Just as we want to be close to people, we also want to be part of that same community, reinforcing our social responsibility.
“We are currently identifying institutions we can support which are located near each of our stores, so we can interact and contribute positively. Our aim is to give back to our communities and acknowledge the positive and loving way in which they receive us.”
Indeed, further store openings are front and centre of CityDia’s ambitious expansion plans.
This will be accomplished through new company-managed stores as well as franchised outlets, both in and outside of Ghana’s major retail market Accra.
“The franchise approach will empower Ghanaian entrepreneurs who want to invest in a successful business model and gain access to a trusted brand, supporting infrastructure and the retail knowhow,” explains Correia. “We believe we can expand the CityDia brand and achieve our objective of being the largest retail chain in Ghana while improving people’s lives.”
Key to executing this strategy will be a new logistics base, a 20,000 square metre facility currently going through the final design process.
Further, and no less important, is CityDia’s network of suppliers, companies which Correia labels as partners and long-term associates whose cooperation involves risk-sharing, agility, and flexibility. Such relations also foster innovation and exchanges of knowledge, processes which enable both parties to develop and grow together.
The premise behind this approach is a simple one, as the General Manager explains: “This is about ensuring that our stores are properly stocked to exceed our customers’ expectations.
“We may have the best-equipped warehouse in the world and flawless distribution, but if we don’t have an upstream supply chain that guarantees us a steady flow of goods, we will fail where we hurt the most – in our stores, letting down our customers.”
These are also customers who are becoming increasingly informed and critical of where they spend their money.
Thanks to the rise of smartphones and mobile connectivity, information is more readily available than ever before, a trend which is leading consumers to make judgements of product purchases that factor in experience and provenance as well as price.
Retailers must therefore stand out in several areas in order to capture the market, Correia also identifying social networking (word of mouth, social media) as an ecosystem that CityDia must continue to influence.
These are trends that fill the General Manager with optimism about the continued development and vibrancy of Ghana’s retail industry.
Despite facing challenges such as the economic backdrop, access to energy and limitations of consumer spending power, the opportunity to grow is still a genuine prospect, one which CityDia is determined to help materialise as it continues to expand.
Correia concludes: “We want to systematise everything we have learned on our journey since 2016 together and in a sustained and realistic way.
“This means we will improve procedures and do things in a lean, efficient and intelligent way. We will provide our people with the necessary training, developing their skills and allowing them to contribute every day and have fun in doing so.
“This will ultimately allow us to leverage our expansion positively and bring the CityDia brand closer to more Ghanaians.”