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


THIS ISSUE:     02 Feb - 07 Feb

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SPAR  When Irish eyes are smilin’…

SPAR’s lucrative holdings in the UK and Ireland have become a little more complex, stick with us here. BWG, the retailer group which controls the SPAR franchise in Ireland, and which is 80% owned by SPAR South Africa, has agreed to buy 4-Acres Wholesale, a family-based business out of County Laois, with its mossy byways, stone castles and mist-shrouded hills. 4-Acres has contracts with 1,500-odd small retailers, including 35 of the 220 stores in the Gala group, and this represents BWG’s first foray into Gala, a convenience franchiser. 4-Acres turns over around €57m a year, a number BWG is intent on growing.
Comment: SPAR’s European adventures are a story we never tire of hearing. A creative and strategic approach to growth out of a consolidated and competitive domestic market, and a hedge against difficult conditions here in the Beloved C.

The Irish Examiner 30/01/18

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Woolworths  Posh tucker!

More on the David Jones turnaround in Aus that, we hope, is sure to come: Woolies have let it be known that South Yarra, a Melbourne suburb, will soon be home to David Jones’ first standalone store, which promises to offer “a premium retail food offering with an emphasis on convenience and quality to suit the discerning local customer”. Except that they’re punting it as “a praymium raytail fode orffereeng? Weeth an emphasees on convayniance? etc”. In keeping with how we do it back home, most of the retailer’s stock, including 90% of its fresh offering, will be marketed under David Jones’ private label brand. This on the heels of the opening of the flagship Food Hall in the Bondi Junction store in Sydney, and ahead of the opening of several more standalone food stores this year.
Comment: The Woolies food model as developed in SA is about as sophisticated and relevant retail experience as we’ve seen anywhere. We truly hope it gains the traction it deserves in Australia and beyond.

Retail World Magazine 02/02/18

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Boxer  She shoots, she scores!

Here’s a link to a heart-warming story from our friends at Boxer, whose Enterprise and Supplier Development programme helped a photographer with an understanding of the Boxer business set up her own business, assisting her with getting it correctly registered and up to date with its tax admin, helping her acquire equipment and get her BBBEE certification.
Comment: Nation building, in microcosm. Nice.

Tatler Reporter 05/02/18

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Nestlé  The milk of human kindness

Much as we prefer to cover the good news from our friends in the manufacturing sector, sometimes there are stories like this: UK-based NGO Changing Markets Foundation has accused Nestlé of selling “sub-standard” products in South Africa. The issue is that on the labels of Nestlé products sold in Hong Kong and Brazil, the dairy giant makes the claim that it’s not a great idea to give babies sucrose or vanilla flavouring – ingredients found in several of Nestlé’s baby formula products over here. This, argues, the foundation, is an example of companies using nutritional science selectively, as a marketing tool, rather than applying universal nutritional standards across its business. In November, Nestlé let it be known that it would be re-organising its infant-nutrition business to improve performance in one of the fastest-growing categories globally – sales in the infant formula industry total around $47bn annually.
Comment: Challenges like these (which, make no mistake, are multi-layered and commercially complex) if mounted responsibly and taken to heart, can provide businesses with an opportunity for positive change and sustainable growth.

Business Day 02/02/18

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Aspen  The White Stuff

Aspen Pharmacare is reviewing its global nutritionals business, with a view to either selling up or getting into a strategic partnership. Just last year, in fact, some unnamed business made an approach, which presumably would be one of the partnerships under consideration. Such a deal might involve leveraging the other business’ distribution platform to grow Aspen’s sales in this lucrative category. Infant’s nutrition, where prices are not regulated, is a good hedge against the travails of the drug business, which is coming under increasing regulatory pressure globally to drop prices. Aspen Nutritionals turned over R3.2bn (out of a total R41bn something) last year, and has a footprint in Latin America, Africa and the Asia Pacific, with a growing business in the Middle East and Asia. China, where prices for formula are high and where the end of the single child law has created a new market of hungry babies, and where Aspen’s Alula brand of formula has just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is apparently the real prize.
Comment: Nestlé has been mentioned as one possible suitor; we wouldn’t presume to speculate.

Business Day 30/01/18

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The Cost of Living  Taxing times

Our tax shortfall looks likely to be in the order of around R50bn this year. It’s the biggest since 2009, and that money will eventually have to come from somewhere. Right now, the likeliest candidates are an across the board tax increase, plus additional VAT charges of 1-2%. VAT hasn’t gone up since it increased to 14% in 1993, and an increase isn’t universally held to be a great idea – some economists argue that it would serves as a drag on GDP and would push inflation up, and that a tiered approach, with higher VAT on non-essentials, might be the way to go. Speaking of inflation, there was some welcome news last week for strapped punters: food inflation moved down a notch to 4.9% in December, having started the year closer to 10%. Particularly helpful for poorer South Africans are slight decreases in the prices of cereals and bread, although meat and veggies are still up – and the latter, with the drought in the Western Cape, likely to remain so.
Comment: Hard times. But there is a growing sense that we are acknowledging the shape and the scale of our various problems, a critical first step to fixing them.

Business Day 05/02/18

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Unilever  The two-headed beast

Fourth quarter sales are up at Unilever globally, with help, as usual, from developing economies. Overall, sales grew 4% against predictions of +3.7%. The other big news from Le Grand Bleu is that they are looking to do away with their two-headed Anglo-Dutch structure, which has become even more unwieldy in the light of Brexit. They haven’t said yet where they will be based, where the choice is between a parochial and wilfully less relevant island or a modern economy at the heart of a vibrant community of nations. (scratches head ruminatively)

Reuters 01/02/18

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International Retailers  Rise of the Machines

In Australia, value-retailer Woolworths (no relation) is beating rivals Aldi and Coles hands-down after investing AU$1bn on lowering prices and improving customer service – don’t believe us, believe the analysts who reckon the respective share prices tell you everything you need to know. Aldi, in the meantime, is building 2,000 apartments above its stores in Berlin, which is in the midst of a housing squeeze – demand, meet supply. In the UK, in the meantime, the retail carnage continues, with Morrison making like Tesco and axing 1,500 jobs, and M&S closing stores and reducing the opening programme for their Simply Food stores.  And globally, in the drive to replace every last human job by 2050, retailer spend on artificial intelligence is set to hit $7.3bn per annum in the next four years.

Tatler Reporter 05/02/18

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Steinhoff  The Third Act

Steinhoff’s Christo Wiese is becoming the epitome – if that’s the word – of grace under fire. The Steinhoff debacle is a deep personal and financial blow to Oom Christo, but he seems to be going the distance on this one, holding onto his Steinhoff shares, taking responsibility where it’s due and generally leading by example. “All I can say is I have shares and I'm holding those shares. I can't give any guidance on whether Steinhoff is investable for those who are not in the same position," he says. In the meantime, Star – the investment vehicle for Steinhoff’s local retail assets – has recovered some 23% of the share value it lost on the news of Steinhoff’s implosion – a vote of confidence in the underlying businesses.

Business Day 05/02/18

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