Customers at Pick n Pay in Carlton centre in Johannesburg. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

Pretoria - Giant supermarket chain Pick n Pay Retailers has stepped in to stop Game Stores from expanding its store in the Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg, to sell a range of perishable and non perishable food items under the “FoodCo” brand.

Pick n Pay (the applicant) turned to the North Gauteng High Court to obtain an interim interdict against Game and the Liberty group, which owns the mall in Pietermaritzburg.

This is to temporarily put a stop to Game selling these food items.

Judge Dawie Fourie granted the order, pending the outcome of the main lawsuit to be fought later.

In an urgent application, Pick n Pay told the court it had, as a lessee entered into an agreement with Liberty regarding its occupation of the mall, in terms of which Liberty would not allow other supermarkets to operate from the premises.

But Masstores now intends to expand its business by selling an extensive range of perishable and non perishable food items under the FoodCo brand within the Game store in the mall.

If permitted to do so, Pick n Pay argued, it would make the Game store a supermarket, which would be a violation of the applicant’s contract with Liberty.

Liberty indicated it would abide by the judge’s decision, while Masstores opposed the application and said Pick n Pay had to prove it had a right not to have competition.

Masstores also said Pick n Pay had to prove the expansion of Game in this mall would render it a supermarket.

Masstores said Game intended on June 25 to “relaunch at the Liberty Midlands Mall with the inclusion of the FoodCo department”.

IThis branch would be similar to the Game store in Rosebank, which incorporates a Game FoodCo with a range of foods, personal care products, pet food and household goods.

Judge Fourie said this was a prima facie indication Masstores intended to expand the Midlands Game to such an extent that it could be regarded a supermarket.

Masstores said it had the go-ahead from Liberty and thus was not acting unlawfully.

But Judge Fourie said there was an existing contract between Liberty and Pick n Pay. Introducing a FoodCo at this mall would interfere with the contractual relationship.

Allowing it would mean Pick n Pay would no longer be the exclusive supermarket in this mall, which could cause it some financial harm.

It was planned to refurbish the Game store in the mall by R20 million, to include the food section.

The judge said his was not the final word.

A final decision would be made through arbitration or further legal proceedings, he said. - Pretoria News