Former Exclusive Books CEO willing to take on CNA

According to an article published in the Sunday Times at the weekend, former Exclusive Books CEO Benjamin Trisk is willing to re-engineer Edcon’s flailing CNA brand.

This follows his recent departure from the book retailer after a breakdown with the company’s shareholders. Hired in 2013, he spent the past five years in charge of a turn-around strategy after the store had experienced a series of failures.

Trisk told Business Times this week that he would only consider joining CNA if approached. “I would probably look at it very seriously. However, I must make it clear that I have not been approached.”
“But I’m not leaping into anything. I’ve had one approach from overseas which I can’t talk about at the moment. Locally I’ve also had approaches, but I think it’s quite early in the cycle,” he said.

CNA: Edcon’s white elephant

CNA has long been in the doldrums. In 1997, Wooltru bought CNA out of CNA-Gallo for R447-million.
A turnaround plan was implemented but failed dismally and in 2001, the company was sold to Gordon Kay & Associates for R192-million. By the following year, CNA was in liquidation.
Edcon, under the leadership of US retailer Steve Ross, snapped up CNA for R141-million, but 16 years later the retail brand continues to make losses.
CNA is part of Edcon’s speciality division, that once housed Legit, Edgars Shoe Gallery and the group’s non-profitable brands.

According to The Sunday Times, Chris Gilmour, an investment analyst, said: “They tried hard, but couldn’t win. They [Edcon] are thinking about getting out anyway, they can’t keep on putting more money into it. [CNA] is a pile of unadulterated rubbish that should have died 20 years ago.”
Gilmour said South Africa didn’t have a high-street retail culture anymore, making it difficult for brands such as CNA to have a market “and as a result the model is completely shot”.
Meanwhile, Alec Abraham, a senior equity analyst at Sasfin Wealth, told The Sunday Times: “I don’t know what they [CNA] are and I don’t know if they know what they are.”
He said there was a likelihood that CNA would end up in a similar situation to that of Musica, where “they can’t find a buyer because no one wants to buy this unfit business and they are running with the idea as long as they are not losing money on it. And if they are going to be the last man standing, then so be it.”

An Edcon spokesperson has confirmed that CNA is not for sale.

According to Edcon’s latest financial results, for the 13 weeks to December 23 last year, CNA has 196 stores, including 11 Samsung stores, positioning its offering in electronics, stationery, gaming and the limited book retail offering.

Original article by Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu for The Sunday Times

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