Going bets on online bargains
A new e-commerce player is trying a different take on South African online retail by selling excess stock, clearance items, and other bulk, discounted products to consumers or independent retailers. By Craig Wilson.
There’s a new kid on the online retail block in South Africa. Going.co.za focuses on excess stock and other clearance items at heavily discounted rates, targeting everyone from individual consumers to small store owners and even informal retailers.
Going’s founder, 53-year-old Paul Greenberg — the man behind Australia’s online retail giant DealsDirect — calls it the “wholetail” model.
Greenberg has worked in online retail for more than 10 years. Although he’s originally from Cape Town, he now lives in Sydney, Australia. “It’s a borderless retail world these days,” he says, adding that he’s been keeping “half an eye” on the Southern African market.
“I was doing quite a lot of work with digital marketers in Cape Town and got linked up with potential partners through the grapevine,” he explains. “It’s a small ecosystem, so when it came time to look at an African market, I looked to South Africa.”
One of the partners in Going is black empowerment company Amabubesi Investments. Greenberg won’t disclose the size of Amabubesi’ stake, or talk about other investors. He says it’s a “private company”.
Greenberg decided to launch Going because it was the “right time, people, and place with the right business model”.
Going was launched quietly two months ago and is run by a team of 12 people based in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
It’s a platform for what Greenberg calls “excess inventory”. While other online players focus on “shopping”, Going is “more into hunting”.
“We have a strong focus on surplus inventory. It’s about people buying things they don’t need at prices they can’t resist, as well as the wholesale market. There’s a rich legacy of informal retail in South Africa, and those resellers haven’t traditionally been online buyers but, as technology becomes more common, that’s changing.”
Going is supplied by local companies that have excess stock to clear or, in some instances, by companies that are going out of business. “We have people on the road in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban asking people what they want to clear at significant discounts.”
The company also intends selling what Greenberg calls “global stock loss” from the US and China. The recession and the shift from physical to online retail in developed markets means there’s the chance of acquiring clearance stock from physical retailers that go into liquidation, he says.
Wherever the stock comes from, Greenberg says it has to be good quality. “We don’t want to stock rubbish.”
Another area of potential focus is factory-refurbished products, or as Greenberg calls it, “re-commerce”.
“Many companies worldwide have very relaxed returns policies, and it’s worth asking what happens to that stock.” Going is already talking to brands about distributing their refurbished stock.
Greenberg is no stranger to the art of the “online bargain”. In the early 2000s he started an eBay-based business called Auctionbrokers Australia, which was rebranded as DealsDirect in 2004. DealsDirect went on to become the largest online-only retailer in Australia. DealsDirect focused on discounted products and other “bargains”.
When Greenberg sold his stake in DealsDirect, the company’s annual turnover exceeded A$100m.
As well as his involvement with Going, Greenberg heads Australia’s National Online Retailers Association, a body he’d like to introduce in South Africa, too. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media