Radical steps needed to save Edcon

SUNDAY TIMES BUSINESS BY PALESA VUYOLWETHU TSHANDU, 2016-05-29

 

On her way through an Edgars store, Shelly Gould eyes a dress on the express merchandise of international brands. "Buy one, get one free" reads the signage , but even that doesn' t tempt her .

"I don't browse. I only come here if I really need something," said Gould.

The mother of two, who started shopping at Edgars 10 years ago, said the only reason she still bought at the store was its new diversified offering - "they've got more products, like Forever New. But I don't shop here for my daughter at all. There's nothing for her."

Gould said some of the clothes on offer for young girls were in fact inappropriate, and better suited to women.

But Gould's son could be the ideal customer for the Edcon group's flagship stores. "I've got a 15-year-old son who only wears name brands." Edgars stocks a variety of international, local and private-label brands in its 203 stores.

In 2012, when then-CEO Jürgen Schreiber introduced international brands such as Mango, Topshop and Forever New, he anticipated that the youth-oriented labels would increase sales by 50% to make up for the previous year's R2.8-billion loss.

In the years since then, they have become perhaps the only reason the retailer is surviving.

The Edcon group employs more than 40,000 people, most of them full-time employees, according to CEO Bernie Brookes.

Brookes said last week that "over the past few months we have accelerated and advanced our operational change process ... this included an enhanced focus on the store look and feel, better service levels, improving the product offering, as well as better overall cost management, and these are all starting to resonate well with customers".

But on the shop floor the conversation is very different.

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