School of Retail
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THIS ISSUE: 29 Jul - 04 Aug
Pick n Pay Chairman Gareth Ackerman is keeping alive the grand old family tradition of weighing in with an opinion on matters of public and/or economic policy. The target this time is not apartheid, illegitimacy thereof, or fuel prices, desirability of liberating from constraints of government control, but rand strength, patchy advisability of doing anything about which. As SA is a net importer of food and food products, says Mr A., the devaluation of the rand will cause prices to inflate rapidly, hitting the poor where it hurts them most. It might also cause a wage-price spiral, which he believes the economy can ill afford. And don’t get him started on the oil price, which as it rises will lead inevitably to a premium being placed on bio-fuels, to food shortages and ever more rampant food inflation – then add a weakened rand into the mix, and Bob Mugabe could well be your uncle. Comment: Sage and timely stuff, and good to see a business leader exercising his civic responsibility.
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Shoprite, as you probably know, has brought back its prestigious Woman of the Year Award, and the winner is – well, in a refreshingly co-operative way, there were five winners, one of whom was style maven, if that’s the word, Lucilla Booyzen, founder of that great bi-annual flapping of hands known as Jo’burg Fashion Week, and various associated bits of good work, like the mentorship programme and the Fashion Fusion project which supports community crafters in all nine provinces. Other winners include Khanyisile Motsa who founded the Berea-Hillbrow Home of Hope and has helped over 8,000 street kids get their childhood back, and Lifetime Achiever Mamphele Ramphela, doctor, Dean and ex-Steve Biko flame. Comment: A welcome return for SA’s most meaningful accolade.
Tatler Reporter 28/07/10
DisChem is on the way to an unwelcome record when it comes to industrial action, with their SACCAWU imbroglio heading into week ten and no silver cloud at the end of the soaps aisle. 17% of DisChem’s 5,700 workers are still on strike, demanding a minimum wage of R3,500 and a 15% salary hike across the board, while DisChem contends that the strikers have broken the picketing laws and damaged company assets. Pick n Pay, in the meantime, is facing its own dust up with SACCAWU, also over an increase, this time 12% as well as staff discounts and the duration of the agreement – PnP wants three years, SACCAWU one year. Finally, Shoprite is educating its Nigerian workforce about how we do labour relations back home over a disputed incentive bonus. Comment: Workers eh. Can’t live with them, can’t fire them. Most of the time.
Business Report 23/07/10, 30/07/10
Procter & Gamble, who have been stung in the past by unkind suggestions that they aren’t all that in emerging markets, have revealed their “naughty schoolboy” strategy for Africa, whereby they will go for the low hanging fruit in categories where other players don’t yet dominate. Thus in South Africa they have chosen not to go big in powders, where Unilever enjoys a certain (albeit not uncontested) dominance, instead focusing on hair, beauty and hygiene. P&G’s investment in developing markets has doubled to $25.3billion since 2004, and in 2008 they mentioned that almost all of the 20 factories they would be building to 2012 would be in emerging markets. One such factory is of course the Pampers plant in Kempton Park, where P&G orchestrate their 40% share of the SA nappy market. Comment: Another elephant at the waterhole always makes for a more interesting sunset, or so we’re told.
BAT’s key markets are returning to robust good health as relieved smokers lose in the kitchen drawers the cheap Chinese cigarettes that sustained them during the recession and return to the real brands made famous by Monroe, Bogart and that guy in The Outsiders. While volumes were down by 4% in the first quarter of the year, they were down only 3% for the half, suggesting that for smokers and for BAT, the worst may be over. And key markets, including Russia, Canada, Germany, and, you will be pleased to hear, South Africa, are returning tentatively to growth, as one day the smokers might return to the bar down at Flagons and Dragons. One of BAT’s strengths is its uncanny ability to push through price increases, even as volumes decline. Comment: Which just goes to show.
Business Report 29/07/10
At last week’s AGM, Tongaat Hulett CEO Peter Staude adopted the doom-laden tones of an agri-business exec reporting low rainfall. Rainfall on the KZN North Coast fell to 252mm for the Jan-June growing season this year, compared with the 491mm that saw both Tongaat and Illovo performing very nicely thank you for the 2010 FY. On the upside maize, 600,000 tons per annum of which is converted by the group into food and industrial products every year, enjoyed a bumper crop of 13 million tons, keeping the starch side of the business globally competitive, although sales of both starch and glucose have continued to reflect shrinking consumer spending during the recession. Comment: Agricultural businesses like this one operate in that vertiginous space between what the market wants and what Mother Nature is able to provide. A reminder that, as they say, civilisation is only two meals thick after all...
Business Day 28/07/10
The Producer Price Index (PPI) for June rose 9.4% year-on-year after a mere 6.8% in May, driven thence by record electricity price increases, and suggesting that inflation could be on its way back into our wallets. The price of electricity rose 51.6% in the month, for an annual rate of change of 39.5%, accounting for a third of the increase. Another chunk of it came from the prices of iron and steel, which increased 11% for the month – or 14.8% for the year. The effects of wage settlements are another factor which could make themselves felt in the supply chain. CPI in the meantime, lags at 4.2% for the month of June. Comment: The calm before another inflationary storm? Some retailers will be hoping so.
Business Day 30/07/10
While organised labour is playing merry heck with everything from DisChem to schools, and captains of industry are warning us in sepulchral tones of the danger to our very livelihoods, the bigger threat to the economy is of course the people who aren’t working, and whose number was added to by some 1.7% for the second quarter, for a total unemployed of 25.3%. This in the face of indicators which suggest the economy is now in recovery. 171,000 jobs were lost in the first quarter and 61,000 in the second, with over a million having been lost since the start of 2009. Comment: Numbers. Behind each one of which is a story of failure, deprivation, anger and misery.
Sunday Times 01/08/10
Shoprite chair and ex diamond merchant Christo Wiese has described as a “bit of a joke” the seizure of 600 thou of his hard-earned Euros by the notoriously humourless customs officials of Heathrow in April 2009, and is quietly confident that the wedge will find its way back to him, as it generally seems to. He had apparently forgotten that it was in his wallet on the way to Luxembourg, where he was planning on having a little post-crash flutter on the markets.
Reclusive retail genius (the last photo taken of him was in 1980 something) Theo Albrecht has died aged 88. Theo was one half of the pair of brothers which gave the world Aldi hard discounters, and Walmart a run for its money. The business, said to be worth somewhere around the $58billion mark, is controlled by a family foundation and run by his sons and a shadowy circle of serious advisors.
Financial Times 29/07/10
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