Trade Tatler
“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”
Rainer Maria Rilke


THIS ISSUE:     21 Dec - 17 Jan

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Woolworths  Baby steps…

An inauspicious start to the year for Woolworths, which has fought another one of its ill-advised Goliath vs David battles with a smaller business and lost. Last time around, it was old-timey soft drinks; this time, upping their game, they’ve gone up against an SMME that locally produces and sells organic hemp baby carriers. Sometimes, we’re inclined to give retailers the benefit of the doubt. There are, after all, many products out there, and many of them are unavoidably similar. But in this instance, it was shown that someone in Woolies head office had ordered and received two Ubuntu Baba carriers months prior to the Dapper One bringing its strikingly similar product to market, at a fraction of the price, made from polyester and manufactured in China. To add insult to injury, they’d plundered Ubuntu Baba’s product descriptor for Google AdWords, to bump up the Woolies product in the search. Woolies have withdrawn the product from stores and online, and offered a refund to any purchasers who would like to return the offending carrier.
Comment: Just, no. This is not how we build a brand, a business or an economy.

BizCommunity 10/01/19

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Shoprite  Ticketed

The Competition Commission has recommended that the Competition Tribunal fine the Shoprite Group and Computicket a total of 10% of their annual turnover for anticompetitive practices, which is what we call steep, and which caused punters to flee the share to the tune of over 4% before a slight recovery last week. At issue is the fact that Computicket – acquired by the Shoprite Group in 2005 – locks large sports and entertainment venues into exclusive agreements which prejudice smaller resellers, and discriminates between large and small customers on pricing. It’s a hellishly complicated saga which has dragged on for over a decade, based on original complaints from Strictly Tickets, Artslink, Going Places, TicketSpace and Ezimidlalo Technologies. Shoprite seems inclined to fight the recommendation.
Comment: The inclusion of Computicket services into the Shoprite retail offering seemed a stroke of genius. The acquisition of Computicket may – according to the Tribunal – have been a bridge too far.

Tatler Reporter 30/12/18

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Pick n Pay  State of Independents

Three new Gauteng-based independent retailers have joined Pick n Pay’s Market Store Partnership. Their respective stories are instructive. The BVN Market in Mohlakeng is owned by entrepreneur Vusi Ndhlovu, who re-opened his father’s successful store in 2003, and has doubled its size in this new partnership. Summore Market in Tembisa is owned by mechanical engineer Pilane Kwakwa, who runs it in tandem with his successful enterprise resource planning business. Finally, Dinny's Market in Sebokeng is run by ex-Pick n Pay branch manager Johannes Letswalo, who fell in love with the Market concept after visiting one of the stores in early ’18. Through the programme, Pick n Pay and its suppliers fit each store with new refrigeration and IT systems, expanding the range, with specialist departments like butchery and bakery, and services like money transfer, ticketing, airtime.
Comment: An initiative moving slower than ideal, and one which comes with many challenges. But the potential of what it could be – the power of a big brand with the agility and drive of emerging independent retailers – is noteworthy.

IOL 30/12/18

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RCL FOODS  Smoked chicken

The business formerly known as Rainbow Chicken has long been a jewel in the Remgro crown, and last week they upped their stake to 78%, with the purchase of an additional seven million-odd RCL shares. They may yet have an appetite for more: some analysts believe that Remgro are seeking to buy out any remaining minority shareholders as they consolidate their position in the food industry. Last year, you may recall, Unilever bought back Remgro’s 25.75% share of their own business in exchange for the entirety of their spreads unit and a cash consideration of around R4bn, putting Remgro in possession of such venerable brands as Rama, Flora and Stork. Remgro now owns brands in such sectors as banking, healthcare, consumer products, insurance, industrial, infrastructure and the media.
Comment: Not bad for a business which began life (metaphorically speaking) flogging baccy out of the back of a bakkie.

Business Day 10/01/19

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AB InBev  Weed buy a six pack of that…

Various bits of news form the world’s biggest brewer AB InBev, which as you know chugged our own SABMiller down in a single long pull just a couple years ago. The first is that they launched a couple of those rich, buttery beers of which the Belgian are so inordinately fond onto the South African market just last month, namely Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden. The second is that they might be looking at unbundling their Asian operations and listing them separately in order to dispose of some the debt with which their numerous acquisitions have left them. And finally, they’ve teamed up with Canadian outfit Tilray in a $100m venture to explore the market potential of non-alcohol beverages containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) (that’s cannabis elements for the rest of you).
Comment: Imagine being in at the dawn of an entire new industry on the scale of soy, for example, or wheat. That’s what we’re seeing.

IOL 21/12/18

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The Economy  An economy, with the facts

How are things shaping up for the dear old South African in this brave new year? Well, for starters, with the return to economic growth, however modest, the lower fuel price, and the generally modest inflation outlook, the Reserve Bank is likely to keep the repo rate unchanged this week. On the downside, SA’s Business Confidence Index (BCI), as measured by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), declined from 96.1 points in November to 95.2 in December, driven thither by a basket of factors including lower merchandise export volumes, the decreased value of building plans passed and weaker new vehicle sales. And the World Bank has revised its growth forecast for SA downwards, from 1.8% for the year to 1.3%, and word on the street is that the ratings agencies might take a similar stance. Globally, slowdowns in China and the US are anticipated by the gloomier economists, and this could have a dampening effect on our own economy.
Comment: Remember, though, that 2018 finished stronger than we had anticipated. There’s life on the old economy yet.

Tatler Reporter 15/01/19

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Pick n Pay  Ginning up enthusiasm

Thirsty denizens of Berea verandahs and Camps Bay balconies alike will be delighted to know that Pick n Pay is dropping the price on its “Citrus for Gin” bags – known by some wags as “Gin Lemons” to distinguish them from, we don’t know, the other kind? That you don’t put in gin? The bag, which trades on SA’s newfound enthusiasm for artisanal variants of the acerbic liquor, contains a grapefruit, two limes, and two lemons, and goes for R39.99, down from its cynical pre-festive high of R44.99.

Tatler Reporter 11/01/19

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International Retailers  A Lidl less conversation

In the UK, shoppers dropped a whacking £29.3bn on groceries over the festive season. And a big chunk of that was at discounters Aldi and Lidl, to which two out of every three shoppers paid a visit during those merry weeks. Lidl’s sales grew 33% year-on-year for the six weeks through December; Aldi took the turnover prize home at £1bn for the month of December. Over in the US in the meantime, Walmart is tooling up for a knock-down, drag-out battle with Amazon, with plans to hire 2,000 technology experts this year to give it the edge.

Tatler Reporter 13/01/19

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