New Pick n Pay CEO to target online sales growth

Pick n Pay’s next CEO, Pieter Boone, plans to accelerate his predecessor’s eight-year turnaround of the South African grocer by focusing on stores that cater for lower-to-middle income consumers and by boosting online sales.

“Pieter speaks of evolution and acceleration, rather than revolution,” David North, Pick n Pay’s executive for strategy, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Boone, who takes over from Richard Brasher in about a week, plans to expand the company’s Boxer outlets “faster than we have been”, and “to make sure we have a second engine of growth” in this area of retailing, North said.

Under Brasher, Pick n Pay completed a major restructuring of the company’s supply chain and almost doubled its network. The Cape Town-based company, which has about 300 limited range discounter Boxer sites in sub-Sahara Africa, has also increased the proportion of capital investment in its Value stores. These are trading in the “biggest segment of the market and we think over the next five years or so it’s going to grow the most”, North said.

In the past year, as Covid-19 has caused more customers to turn to online shopping, South African retailers have rapidly expanded their digital offering. Pick n Pay plans to launch to bring together its online services, said North, who headed the grocer’s coronavirus task team.

Improved volume growth

Pick n Pay earlier reported improved second-half volume growth of 5.1% in its core South African grocery business, up from 4.2% in its first half.

The result sets a good foundation for the management transition, said Bloomberg Intelligence retail analyst Charles Allen. “Expense reduction has made the company’s discount Boxer and eponymous supermarkets more competitive against well-managed peers,” Allen wrote in a note.

“The operational result was encouraging,” particularly in the second half, Citigroup analyst Kgosietsile S Rahube wrote in a note to clients.  — Reported by Janice Kew, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP

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