A trading update for the first half of the year from Massmart on Friday spooked investors who had been banking on a stronger recovery. The share closed over 9% lower at R54.95, having traded as much as down 11% on the day.
While the headline number seems “satisfactory” – sales are up 4.4% – it must be remembered that the group is comparing sales this year to a period last year during which the country was practically shut down for a month, with the level-5 hard lockdown from 27 March through the rest of April. In May, some restrictions were eased, and in June the economy was opened further. Compare the first half of this year to 2019 and sales have dropped 5.7% across the group.
Makro’s R13.7-billion in sales for the 26 weeks are 2.2% higher than the comparable period in 2019. At Builders, sales of R7.2-billion are 7.5% better. The real horror show is in the group’s cash and carry and Cambridge food businesses as well as Game.
Sales at Game were 7.6% lower than the same period last year, with comparable stores sales being 6.9% lower
Total sales in the cash and carry and Cambridge units is down by 9.8%, or R1.4-billion, when compared to the first half of 2019. This decline was led by Cambridge, which the group has been trying to sell for the last six months. Sales in this business, ranked eighth in food retail in the country, are 9.4% lower than last year.
A far bigger problem, however, looms at Game.
Massmart says sales at Game were “7.6% lower than the same period last year, with comparable stores sales being 6.9% lower” — this despite half the period being impacted by lockdown last year. (In South Africa, the decline was 4.6%.)
Compare sales at Game to the first half of 2019 (excluding the impact of lockdown), and although there is some impact of “lost” sales due to the closure of DionWired, these are down 19.1%! Game and Dion Wired were part of Massmart’s former Massdiscounters division.
The R6-billion question (the current value of its 51% stake) is how long Walmart will continue to waste management time – and money – trying to fix Massmart.
Massmart CEO Mitchell Slape has already done the easy work: shutting and selling underperforming stores, fixing retail basics in Game, stripping out large chunks of head office costs (by outsourcing central functions to Walmart suppliers) and securing a R4-billion (soft) loan from Walmart to bolster its balance sheet during a Covid-19 impacted year last year.
The rampant looting and destruction in July may have been the final straw.