Tag: Stuttafords

How Zuma killed Stuttafords

Stuttafords officially closed its doors on Monday, 31 July after 159 years of operating in the South African retail market.

The retailer filed for business rescue in October 2016, after it could not recover from the pressures of the low growing economy and the significant devaluation of the rand following the axing of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
A final bid to buy the last two operating stores in Sandton and Eastgate was rejected by the landlord, Liberty. Chief executive Robert Amoils told Fin24 that all staff at the two remaining stores will be retrenched and have their full retrenchment packages paid.

The business is currently undergoing a winding down process which will take a few months to complete. A sale of Stuttafords intellectual property is being finalised by the business rescue practitioners.

Amoils had explained to Fin24 that the business had been on the right path, but simply ran out of time to correct things. “I believe the path we set was correct. I believe the repositioning we did was consistent with what international trends have shown to work,” he said.

“Simply, we ran out of runway, we ran out of time. The market downturn was so swift, so severe and was paralleled with significant [rand] devaluation and political uncertainty.”

Amoils explained that the rand devaluation impacted the business model negatively because commitments were made to buy international brands almost a year in advance. But director at Norton Rose Fulbright and senior insolvency lawyer Haroon Laher said that the downfall could not be pinned down to the economy only.

“I think there were a number of factors. There was a lot of tension between the shareholders which obviously is tension in the house, so to speak. That did not contribute to a successful business rescue.”

Stefan Salzer, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group said that generally the retail sector is under pressure. Particularly in recessionary conditions consumers tend to cut down on spend for discretionary items such as clothing, household appliances and furniture.

“It is tough not to buy food but it is very easy not to buy a TV or buy the latest fashions from Stuttafords,” he said.
Salzer explained that over the past two to three years international clothing retailers had been entering the market, posing another complication for Stuttafords. Amoils previously told Fin24 that the arrival of international players like H&M, Zara and Cotton On had cut into their customer base.

That, coupled with increasing financial pressures on consumers and changing credit regulations did not contribute positively to the environment for clothing retailers, said Salzer.

Indeed, the devaluation of the rand impacted Stuttafords profits, he explained. An item that cost $3 would end up costing more at a later stage due to the sensitivity of the currency. This cost could be borne by the consumers, in the final price charged for the item, or the retailer would have to carry the expense and let profit take a knock.
Stuttafords purveys international brands and this set it in a disadvantage to other local retailers which rely on South African produced and sourced products, explained Salzer.

International players
Salzer said that international players are also clear on what they are, and on what they are not.
These retailers also differentiate between “basics” and fashion items and price these accordingly. For example a basic white T-shirt would be just that. Contrarily South African retailers would sell a “basic” white T-shirt with some print on it. Additionally, South African retailers often do not match pricing for basic and fashion items appropriately. Something considered basic, would be priced as a fashion item.

Local retailers also need to adopt fashion faster as international retailers do, he said. International retailers also have the advantage of scale, they have access to global brands at larger volumes.

South African retailers should also learn to introduce a “theatre of shopping” to inspire people to buy. Some retailers just put items on shelves, which is not as inspiring as having a styled manikin, he explained. A consumer could walk into a store with the idea to buy a T-shirt but then leave with a dress because the product was represented in an emotive and inspirational way, said Salzer.

International players also follow a different model when it comes to planning and buying merchandise, explained Derek Engelbrecht partner and consumer products and retail sector leader at EY. Global brands have a sense of urgency and frequency with which they change offerings.

“That is probably one of the key reasons the department store has battled. In gold old fashioned department store planning, the business would put new things on the shelf when the seasons change.”
“Global brands have worked hard and long to perfect the model where they are able to put items on the shelf every four to six weeks,” he said.

Develop a niche
Globally, the department store is facing challenges, explained Salzer. The way forward is to develop niche or specialist stores. Given South Africa’s mall culture, retailers do not necessarily have to stock all kinds of items under one roof, when a consumer can get these products a few meters away in a different store.

Salzer added that if some retailers still want to diversify their offerings, they need to be clear on the overall theme they are offering, like quality, convenience or affordability. For example a retailer could offer clothing items and cars, if the overall expectation of the offering was quality.

Engelbrecht explained that retailers can no longer be all things to all people. “If you follow approach of being all things to all people at some point your customer will leave you,” he says.

“If you identify the niche or the consumer you are targeting, while it may not appeal to all people, at least you are guaranteed that you created something unique. That is probably where the slow demise of the department store as a concept comes from.”

Engelbrecht also pointed out the importance of retailers adapting to the world in which they operate in.
Before entering business rescue, Amoils said Stuttafords had managed to reposition itself as a provider of cutting edge fashion and offered affordable branded luxury. The customer base was also more reflective of the South African consumer, with over 60% of Stuttafords’ market being black. The group also started focusing on targeting younger, tech-savvy consumers. “We perpetually evolved and I think we did a good job in the last five years,” says Amoils.

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

Malls in crisis as Stuttafords shuts down

Stuttafords’ shutdown may be only the tip of the iceberg for mall owners, who are facing further tenant failures and store closures as consumer spending tightens. But it’s not necessarily all bad news.

The demise of Stuttafords and the looming closure of a number of Edcon stores will bite into the earnings of shopping mall owners, who increasingly face rising vacancies and falling rentals.

JSE-listed mall owner Hyprop Investments expects it will take six months to find new tenants for the 11,000m² of space left empty following last month’s closure of Stuttafords stores in three of its flagship shopping centres.

Hyprop CEO Pieter Prinsloo says it’s too early to say what the impact will be on the company’s bottom line.

“It will depend on how long the stores stand empty and what rental levels we can achieve on new leases.”’

However, he concedes that the Stuttafords store closures will negatively affect dividend payouts to shareholders for the year ending June 2018.

Hyprop is the JSE’s largest specialist retail-focused real estate investment trust (Reit), with a market cap of R30bn. It has in recent years consistently outperformed the sector, both in terms of income and capital growth.

In March, when the company reported results for the six months to December, Prinsloo said Hyprop was on track to achieve dividend growth of 12% for the full year ending June — well ahead of the 7% sector average. That level of growth appears unlikely to be repeated in the 2018 financial year.

Hyprop is already in talks with various retailers to fill the space vacated by Stuttafords. Prinsloo says international retailers, including Swedish fashion retailer H&M, and Zara, are still keen to expand their SA footprints. “Turkish fashion brand LC Waikiki is also interested in establishing a presence in SA.”’

The problem, says Prinsloo, is that it is likely to take six months to negotiate lease agreements with new tenants and fit out new stores. And there is a chance that Hyprop may have to let the vacant space at lower rentals than Stuttafords was paying. Says Prinsloo: “The reality is that trading conditions are tough, with retail sales under pressure across the board. So everyone wants to pay lower rentals.”

Though Stuttafords has paid its rent until the end of May, Hyprop will claim damages equal to the amount owed for the unexpired portion of the three leases. The Rosebank Mall lease was the longest and has four years remaining. But Prinsloo doesn’t expect to recover much. “Creditors are unlikely to get back more than 3c in the rand.”

Other JSE-listed mall owners that will be affected by Stuttafords store closures are sector heavyweight Growthpoint Properties and Liberty Two Degrees. The latter owns stakes in Gauteng megamalls Sandton City and Eastgate. The Stuttafords store in Growthpoint’s Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria shut its doors last month.

It’s not clear if and when its Sandton City and Eastgate stores will close. Liberty Two Degrees declined to comment on the issue.

Stuttafords’ shutdown may turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg for mall owners, who are facing further possible tenant failures and store closures. International fashion brands Mango and Nine West, which were brought to SA by House of Busby, closed their stand-alone stores in March. British retailer River Island, which has a presence in Rosebank Mall, Sandton City and Mall of Africa in Gauteng, Canal Walk in Cape Town, and elsewhere, exits SA this month.

Of particular concern are the looming store closures by the struggling Edcon group, the largest occupier of retail space in SA through its Edgars, Jet, Jet Mart, CNA and Boardmans brands.

Edcon CEO Bernie Brookes said last month the group plans to shut a number of stores when leases come up for renewal, in a bid to stem losses from falling sales and cannibalisation (when a new store lures customers away from an existing one in the same “catchment area”).

Though vacancies in the retail portfolios of larger property stocks are still relatively low at less than 3% typically of gross lettable space, vacancies are bound to tick up over the next 12 months.

Trading densities (turnover/m²), another key measure of retail performance, are already under pressure. Trading density growth in the mall portfolios of both Growthpoint and Hyprop slowed to the low single digits in the six months to December, from 7%-8% achieved 18-24 months ago.

Growthpoint head of retail Stephan le Roux says Edcon store closures will affect all mall owners, given how difficult it is becoming to replace tenants. “Everyone’s growth is flat or falling, so very few retailers are looking to expand in the current weak economy.”

To the (business) rescue
More financially distressed companies that have gone into business rescue since 2011 have been saved than have failed.
Le Roux believes there is also an increased risk of tenant failures among smaller, independent “mom and pop stores” as they often don’t have the financial resources to keep afloat amid continued pressure on retail sales.

The perfect storm has been created by developers’ and retailers’ overzealous expansion in recent years, amid dwindling consumer spending, says Le Roux. “Over the past decade the amount of new retail space added to the market grew at a much faster pace than retail sales. Until a year ago, it was mostly lower-and middle-income shoppers who were under strain. Now upper-income consumers are also tightening their belts as higher taxes and overall living costs erode disposable income.”

Property analysts say store closures by underperfoming retailers is not necessarily all bad news. Meago Asset Managers director Jay Padayatchi says Stuttafords closures could be a blessing in disguise as vacant space may be taken up by international retailers who could trade better and bring in more feet.

Stanlib head of listed property Keillen Ndlovu says the upside of tougher trading conditions is that SA landlords will be forced to improve the shopping experience for consumers. He says this is already happening in the US and UK, where mall owners have had no choice but to adapt to changing shopping patterns and the advent of online shopping.

In the US, he says, department stores seem to be a thing of the past. Landlords are converting big spaces into smaller, specialised outlets.

Ndlovu says globally the focus is increasingly shifting away from fashion/apparel to food, beverage and entertainment offerings. This has already delivered rental upside for large US-listed Reits such as Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties.

Ndlovu notes that SA retail landlords will, similarly, also have to become more innovative to stay ahead of the game. “There’s huge room for SA property owners to improve the tenant mix in local malls as well as to embrace new technology through apps, free WiFi and use of data analytics to better understand shoppers’ changing needs and preferences.”

By Joan Muller for www.businesslive.co.za

Follow us on social media: 

               

View our magazine archives: 

                       


My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Top