JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Shoprite said on Friday it will now allow shoppers to purchase general merchandise such as small appliances on its on-demand grocery app, as the country's biggest supermarket group eyes a larger share of the e-commerce market.

South Africa has seen a sharp rise in online shopping after the pandemic created an opportunity for e-commerce to finally take hold, with retailers doubling down on investments in response.

The group's upmarket brand Checkers was the first grocery retailer in South Africa to launch an on-demand delivery service, ahead of its rivals Pick n Pay, SPAR and Woolworths

Checkers will now enable customers to shop for more than 10,000 larger products, ranging from camping and outdoor gear to small appliances, kitchen and home electronics and gardening equipment, with same day delivery scheduled within a 60-minute time slot. 

"We're confident that the next iteration of Sixty60 will again disrupt online retail in South Africa," Neil Schreuder, Chief of Strategy and Innovation for the Shoprite Group said. 

Shoprite said it is beta testing the new version of its app and has introduced a fleet of delivery vans to deliver the larger products. It usually delivers grocery items by motorbike.

The new app is available to shoppers living in Cape Town and will be rolled out nationally.

Checkers will be challenging the country's e-commerce giant, owned by Naspers, which mostly sells general merchandise. Amazon also recently launched in the country.

(Reporting by Sfundo Parakozov and Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)