Retail, faithful reader, is not for the faint of heart. It marches on, constantly preparing for a new season. One may be as well acquainted with it as you are with a lover, but the virtue (and blood, sweat and tears) of its vagaries make reporting about it (with depth and breadth), nothing short of a craft.
As 2016 hurtles to a close I thought a retail retrospective would be rather fitting.
Pick n Pay collapses its pyramid
The archaic structure that has long drawn the ire of minorities and activists was finally dismantled — yes, after 35 years.
The JSE listing of Pick n Pay Holdings (Pikwik) was removed, leaving Pick n Pay Stores as the only point of entry for investors.
Despite increased liquidity and an improved ability to raise capital, some investors remain unconvinced and are quite miffed at the 34% dilution in their voting rights.
And, well, through the creation of unlisted B-shares, the Ackerman family does still retain voting control (52.8%) over the company.
The pyramid structure, as you may remember, was introduced in 1981 by the Ackerman family to prevent a hostile takeover.
There were apparently fears that Rembrandt’s Anton Rupert and Jan Pickard from Sanlam were planning a run for Pick n Pay.
Starbucks opens in SA
Who can forget that damp day in April when people lined up before 6am, in the pouring rain, to get their fix. There are people (not me!) who still sit there. All day. (Are they hipsters? Are they streaming Netflix’s Narcos?)
There are now three Starbucks stores in SA — plus one at the HQ of master licensee Taste Holdings.
We know that frappuccinos are big in SA — Starbucks’ Rosebank and Midrand stores ran out of ice during school holidays. Demand was so high for frappuccinos that the ice machines, with a capacity of 400kg of ice, were "flattened". Carlo & Co had to get in touch with Starbucks’ Miami stores to figure out how to deal with this.
James Wellwood ‘Whitey’ Basson retires as CEO of Shoprite
Those who have attended Shoprite’s presentations at the Michelangelo Hotel over the years have mostly left with a touch of bewilderment. "Whitey-isms", they came to be known — often-bizarre phrases from the venerable retail boss. No-one was spared — be they competitors, government or suppliers. As famous last words go, this was his: after 37 years as Shoprite CEO he simply said, "I am tired." SA is unlikely to see a retailer of his stature any time soon — he’s all mettle and sang-froid.
Battle-weary Edcon gets a saviour
Its creditors agreed to swap R20bn of debt into equity. Bain exited. Edcon is now in the hands of Parentco (sounds like a Transformer), an entity made up of Franklin Templeton, Standard Bank, Barclays Africa Group, FirstRand, Standard Chartered, Investec and Harvard Pension Fund.
Core chain Edgars is going where the margin is (private label) and management seems enthusiastic about it. Of course, restoring Edcon to its former glory is a monumental ask. Many don’t see creditors (some who’ve already lost a fortune) as long-term shareholders. What we do know from the Profurn/FNB debacle is this: banks don’t make good retailers.
Stuttafords enters business rescue
That is all, what more can be said?