LEWIS Group posted its biggest weekly fall since January last week as bad-debt costs increased and sales declined at the furniture and household goods retailer during the four months to July.

The shares on Friday closed 2.4 percent lower at R58.21, the lowest price since March 31. The stock fell 9.7 percent for the week, the most since the five-day period ending January 31.

“Protracted strike action, labour unrest, high levels of unemployment and high levels of indebtedness caused consumers to adopt a cautious approach to incurring debt and to be selective in paying accounts,” chief executive Johan Enslin said on Friday.

Debtor costs for the period increased by 30 percent while merchandise sales declined by 0.8 percent, Lewis said.

Mark Hodgson, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets, said the increase in debtors’ costs “was a negative surprise for the market after a 30 percent increase in fiscal 2014”. – Bloomberg