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Retailers gearing up to reopen stores after unrest

Most retailers are stocking and are preparing to reopen their stores. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Most retailers are stocking and are preparing to reopen their stores. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Published Jul 16, 2021


South African retailers are gearing up to rebuild the stores that were looted during the unrest that gripped KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng this week. Most retailers are stocking up and are preparing to reopen their stores.

Reports estimated that more than 200 shopping malls were looted, and an estimated R2 billion was lost during the unrest.

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The unrest first erupted in KZN on July 9, after former president Jacob Zuma started serving a 15-month term at the Estcourt Correctional Centre for contempt of court.

The unrest escalated into large-scale looting in KZN and Gauteng.

Speaking to Business Report Online, Woolworths said its stores were impacted by the recent protest action, which led to it temporarily closing all its stores in KwaZulu-Natal and several stores in Gauteng for three days.

"As the situation has stabilised, we have been able to open stores on a case-by-case basis, once it has been deemed safe and feasible to do so," Woolworths said.

The retailer said it has been working with its suppliers and partners to ensure ongoing availability and continuity of stock.

"This is largely dependent on the re-opening of key transport routes, the ability of local suppliers to continue production, the ability of our staff to access our stores, and the safety of our logistics and distribution operations,“ it said.

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The retailer said it has also seen a marked increase in sales of certain products online and in-store.

Appliance and grocery retailer Massmart said protesters looted 18 Cambridge stores, ten Game stores, eight Builders stores, three Cash and Carry, and two Makro stores during the unrest.

The retailer said it had to temporarily close several stores and facilities over the last few days as it tried to protect its staff, stores, and distribution centre facilities. It said during the unrest it focused on providing South Africans with essential goods by leveraging on partnerships with Uber Eats and OneCart.

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Game’s vice president Andrew Stein said: “Our ability to deliver online orders has been affected in some areas, such as Durban and surrounds, where routes have become inaccessible or unsafe. We are proactively communicating with customers and doing all we can to minimise delays, including re-routing orders to operational stores and facilities. Our focus during this time is to ensure that our customers can shop essential items safely and conveniently.”

"Massmart has merchandise available for imminent departure to re-stock our stores in KwaZulu-Natal," Massmart said.

Meanwhile, the Shoprite Group said it was working around the clock to repair and re-stock looted and damaged stores.

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The group said some of the stores are operational and are re-opening for business by the hour while the safety of both customers and employees remains paramount.

“Supply lines to the majority of stores are currently running smoothly, and deliveries to stores in KZN has commenced,” the supermarket group said.

It also assured customers that the bulk of its supermarkets Shoprite, Checkers, Usave, and franchise OK Foods around the country, are stocked and operational and that there is no need for stockpiling food supplies and health products.

“We appeal to all South Africans to remain calm as our supply chain is now able to supply into most stores again," it said.

Pick n Pay said while the situation remained fragile, it wanted to assure its customers and communities that its and Boxer teams were working to bring essential supplies from Gauteng and the Western Cape into the affected areas.

The retailer said the N3 highway, between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, has just reopened. This enables them to begin the task of transporting large volumes of essential products to the communities that most need them.

"As the situation has eased, we have already reopened many of our stores in KwaZulu-Natal and the affected parts of Gauteng. We plan to reopen even more in the coming days. As we do this, the safety of our colleagues and customers remains our priority," the company said.