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5 Recession-proof niches to consider to achieve retail success in 2018

Posted by Sureswipe on 13 December 2017

Retailers are facing their most competitive environments in decades. But it’s not all gloomy. Here are five brick-and-mortar retail segments that continue to thrive globally.

The 2017 Total Retail Report by PwC reiterates what we in the sector have all heard before – retail businesses are under increasing threat from e-commerce: “With the continuing shift in customer preferences towards online shopping, a lingering low-growth environment in many parts of the world and an unforgiving global marketplace that demands unprecedented technological sophistication, some retailers are being confronted with threats to their very existence.”

However, while e-commerce is encroaching on traditional retail models, there are still customers to serve and profit to be made by those looking to start their own independent retail businesses. Here are five resilient retail segments showing steady growth despite tougher economic climates:




According to a report by, pet owners in the USA already spend more money on their animals' food than any other expenditure – totalling an estimated USD18.28 billion. Research by Euromonitor International shows that the South African pet care industry is also registering strong growth: “Consumer demand for a wide range of products across a variety of price points allows room for both international and local players in the South African pet care market.”

“Pet owners are a very intelligent audience and as consumers, they are still making very clear decisions not to go to grocery or mass distribution stores, instead preferring to use specialty pet shops for each individual need,” says Lou Dubois, associate editor at He adds that you could focus on selling specialty products, or offer services for specific breeds if you are going to care for canine owners’ needs.

Retail business ideas in the pet care segment

If you are going to open a pet care retail business, consider one of the following options:

  • Selling mid-level and upscale pet foods.
  • Offering organic or all-natural pet food options.
  • Purveying up-scale specialty products like designer pet carry cases, collars and jumpers.
  • Some retailers offer or promote additional specialty services such as pet photography.




According to the Health Products Association of South Africa (HPASA), this niche grew 13.5% between 2014 and 2016 in South Africa against a backdrop of stagnating GDP growth. With estimated revenues of R3.8 billion in 2016, the uptick in this sector shows that South Africans are serious about their health.


Whether its juicing, dieting, organic foods or the latest trending fitness programmes – there is no doubt that South Africans are more conscious of their wellbeing than ever before. The HPASA notes that there’s a trend towards better health care as a preventive measure. “The trend is reflected in the country’s burgeoning vitamins and supplements market,” says Bruce Dennison, president of the association.

Retail business ideas in the health segment 

Here are a couple of retail business ideas to consider in the health space:

  • Specialist health supplements stores.
  • Specialty well-being related organic product stores.
  • Exercise equipment and body-toning supplement outlets.
  • Bakeries, juice bars and on-the-go meal outlets catering to healthy lifestyle types.




One of the UK’s most successful retail chains, Oasis is now offering its in-store shoppers free pampering services while they shop. The decision was taken based on the increasing popularity of beauty treatment businesses, hair-care outlets, nail salons and health services boutiques.

In South Africa, the success of the franchise-chain Sorbet proves that local consumers enjoy being pampered too, and they are willing to pay for it. Sorbet generates R500 million in turnover according Entrepreneur magazine and has expanded into off-shoot businesses catering to hair care only or men’s grooming services. Several independent newcomers and beauty-business franchises has launched since Sorbet arguably took the niche mainstream in 2005 when Ian Fuhr founded the business.

Retail business ideas in the pampering segment

Here are a few retail business ideas to consider in the personal grooming segment:

  • Hair salons catering to middle and high-income earners.
  • Specialist beauty product sales targeted at a variety of ethnicities.
  • Nail salons and quick-service hair blow-out shops.
  • Men’s grooming services that sells specialist gender-specific products.




Increasingly, consumers are using mobile smart phones, tablets and laptop computers each year. As more of these items are sold, and increasing number of people will require technology support services or repairs. weFix founder, Alex Fourie, says since he started repairing technology over a decade ago, the process has changed a lot. He believes that, as technology shrinks in size and the repair process becomes tougher, more specialist businesses like his will need to serve the markets.

weFix was started in a dorm room by Fourie and today the brand spans South Africa with 35 locations in key malls and shopping centres. Turning over millions of rands repairing iPhones and iPads, Galaxy smartphones and tablets, Fourie is confident that weFix has established itself in the market and that it’s a lucrative, albeit specialist field type of business to start. If you are tech-savvy and possess the ability to manage a busy location though – you could start turning over millions too.

Retail business ideas in the technology segment

Here are a few retail business ideas to try in the technology service and support segment:

  • Specialist technology accessories store.
  • Smartphone and tablet repair and service store.
  • Niche product outlet, like drone equipment or telematics systems.
  • Gadget shops specialising in niche equipment like gaming consoles or smartwatches.
  • Stores that offer products as well as training on how to use the technologies they sell.




In tough economic cycles, consumers are known to be more cautious with spending – looking for discount deals and value-driven services. When it comes to discount products in particular, there’s a need for cost-effective goods, as proven by West Pack Lifestyle’s success – a player in the South African discount retail goods market since 1996.

The retailer sells kitchenware, cleaning materials, outdoor furniture and a variety of other goods. Opting to open outlets in key locations where middle-income, cost-conscious consumers regularly shop the company boasts 31 stores nationwide. As the global and local economy face more economic ups and downs in the years to come, discount retail goods outlets are expected to rise in popularity.

The key to success is to select the right location and the right products for the target market. You don’t have to stock 12 000 items to compete with businesses like West Pack Lifestyle, but if you get the combination of pricing, product and location right, you might be well on your way to retail success this year.

Retail business ideas in the discounted goods segment

Here are a few retail business ideas to try in the wholesale segment:

  • Specialist goods store – plastic homeware or metal gardenware.
  • General discount store.
  • Food and perishable item outlets that focus on value pricing models.
  • Discounted clothing and apparel outlets.



Sureswipe provides leading-class retail merchant solutions to more than 8 000 independent businesses in South Africa.

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Topics: Starting a Retail Business

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