Nelson Mandela said: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling. But in rising every time we fall.” As we prepare for Mandela Day, we consider what his words mean for our industry at this most difficult time.
We have often noted in the Trade Tatler that the consumer good industry is the most visible – and arguably most important – interface between the economy and the people of South Africa. In true South African spirit, our retailers, manufacturers, and service providers have invested, innovated, and worked tirelessly to create a flourishing sector that would hold its own among the best in the world. More importantly, perhaps, they have taken their success as an opportunity to truly serve the communities in which they are situated.
Since 1994, we have seen remarkable growth and real impact on the ground in social investment across the sector and across all geographic regions, from Shoprite’s food truck programme, to Boxer’s youth sports engagements, SPAR’s championing of women’s issues, Woolworths’ Good Business Journey, and the powerful and meaningful supplier development programmes run by Pick n Pay, Massmart and most of the other major retailers. These programmes are often supported by suppliers to these businesses, who also have their own initiatives in place for community upliftment. In times of crisis, our industry has responded with open hearts to want and need, assisting with food parcels during natural disasters or social unrest, dropping prices so the poorest of our shoppers can afford to feed their families in times of economic hardship, and in the case of Dis-Chem and Clicks recently, supplementing the Government’s efforts to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations. These have been our strengths as an industry – and will continue to be.
However, the ongoing violence and looting has highlighted the vulnerability of our position, with our supply chains stretched over thousands of kilometres of road and rail, and our stores relatively unprotected, designed as they are to welcome and serve shoppers in better times. Now as our stores and warehouses stand empty and damaged, we need to focus on how we will move forward after the fires are out and the dust has settled, so that we can continue to deliver on our very real commitment to situate ourselves economically and socially within our communities.
Like you, our readers, partners, and friends, we are saddened, overwhelmed, and even frightened by recent events. We stand with you in solidarity during these difficult times. As the impact on our industry becomes clearer, we will responsibly share with you whatever accurate information we have that may be of assistance. And when the time comes to rebuild – as it will – we will support your efforts as we always have done, with the insights we bring as research professionals, and with the commitment we bring as South Africans. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, your staff, and your loved ones. Together we will rise.
“This has been a devastating time for the people and companies of our country impacted by looting. We are committed to supporting the rebuilding; let’s work together to get back on our feet, build industry, create jobs and opportunities.” David Smollan, CEO of Smollan Holdings
“We really need to pull together and assist one another as business to ensure this never happens again and to get up and running again with our teams. Jobs are important and we play a major role in society, so let’s lead the revival of our country." Riaz Gani, CEO of the Kit Kat Group