There’s a cottage industry emerging in law arguing the merits as to what exactly constitutes an essential service and what does not. Case in point, Woolies, which briefed its attorneys Webber Wentzel to provide an opinion on whether or not the Dapper One should continue to sell hot food. According to WW, (the lawyers, not the retailer) rotisserie chicken and those very delicious pies are ‘vitally important to many Woolworths consumers’; this notwithstanding Woolies has decided to suspend the service for the moment. As you know, the government put the kibosh on sales of hot food on April 16. Clicks has announced that it will be providing free primary healthcare services like temperature, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings for the next six weeks, providing relief for a healthcare system that needs to marshal its resources for COVID-19, and punters who currently can’t afford even the basics. In a piece of really bad news, 24 employees at Dis-Chem’s Retail Park branch in Boksburg have tested positive for the virus. They’ve deep cleaned the store and opened up with a completely new staff complement. Then there’s also been Cambridge Food, Albany and Unilever (and we’ve no doubt missed some others) who have all closed stores or plants in varying measures due to the virus taking hold. Massmart’s board and executive committee will personally fund, through a waiver of a portion of their monthly take home, 230 tonnes of food for distribution to vulnerable communities through FoodForward South Africa, over a period of three months. And finally, in the Strand, a group of independent Somali retailers has teamed up with local businesses to deliver R50,000 worth of groceries to 400 families in need, demonstrating that there is room for essential works at every scale
Comment: Terrible news our businesses succumbing to the virus and a timely reminder of the real dangers for the frontline workers in our industry.