Cape Union Mart Celebrates Its South African Heritage
September marks Heritage Month, during which South Africans celebrate the nation’s history and the contributions made by everyone in building the country. This year, Cape Union Mart celebrates 85 years of not only equipping adventurers with apparel and gear to explore the great outdoors - a crucial component of the country’s heritage – but also playing a part in addressing the unemployment crisis.
South Africa’s favourite outdoor adventure store, Cape Union Mart had humble beginnings when it was established in 1933 by the late grandfather of current Chairman, Philip Krawitz, who opened the first shop on the corner of Corporation and Mostert streets in Cape Town. Started initially as an army and navy store, the retailer quickly became known for its "everything from an anchor to a toothpick" product range which set the business apart and aided in building the unique relationship it continues to have with its customers today.
While Cape Union Mart was the popular choice for visiting troops on the hunt for military-related luxuries and supplies during World War II, the store’s clientele began expanding to include passing fishermen and, post-war, local and foreign travellers who needed seasonal gear to explore the world’s colder climates. Cape Union Mart went over and above the call of duty to stock bespoke products, based on customers’ needs.
Since 1981, Cape Union Mart has exclusively stocked the K-Way brand, which over the years has grown from strength to strength to become the leader of technical apparel and gear in South Africa.
The K-Way Factory, based in Cape Town, has won numerous awards for its commitment to the continual improvement of its products, staff and processes, with the most recent being the LEAN Performance Improvement Award from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster. In addition, the factory has pioneered a number of firsts on the African continent. Among these is being the first manufacturer of rain- and storm-proof, seam-sealed, foul weather protective clothing as well as being the first African manufacturer to use Sew-free® technology in the production of technical clothing.
The K-Way brand displays its commitment to social responsibility and local enterprise development by empowering a number of smaller Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) factories with development and training as well as by lending them specialist machinery. As part of its Steps to Sustainability Initiative and in a bid to reduce its environmental footprint, the Factory has installed a solar power plant that will help to save 136 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Most importantly, the Factory invests in its workforce, with staff across the board gaining valuable skills to continuously improve their daily work procedures, methods and systems. Not only has staff turnover and absenteeism reduced, but morale has improved dramatically, as has the staff’s motivation to ensure K-Way’s future growth. In addition, the company’s workforce has swelled by 65% and now employs over 240 staff - 50% of whom have been with the company for over five years. Furthermore, as the manufacturer is committed to local employment, a number of staff members hail from the communities surrounding the workshop.
Over and above providing employment at the K-Way Factory, Cape Union Mart employs thousands of people around South Africa as well as in Namibia and Botswana at over 275 stores across its five major retail chains - Cape Union Mart, Old Khaki, Poetry, Tread + Miller and Keedo - all of which subscribe to the company’s philosophy of service excellence. Staff at these stores are continually upskilled in interactive learning environments to meet the demands of fast-changing business needs.
Today, the family-owned, Proudly South African company is a household name and is renowned for providing exceptional retail experiences.
Visit any store to get geared up to explore South Africa’s natural heritage.
For more information, visit https://www.capeunionmart.co.za