PICK n Pay's story is one of repair this year, but so far markets do not seem to be buying into it - shares in the Cape-Town based grocer have dropped more than 6% this year. Larger rival Shoprite has gained more than 11%, Woolworths has climbed 28%-plus.
After several years of falling profitability because of increased competition, Pick n Pay is following a transformation strategy to halt a steady decline in one of SA's best-known listed retailers.
It's a story that the company has done well to keep alive despite the lack of appetite in markets.
In an attempt to reassure shareholders of its turnaround attempts, Gareth Ackerman, the grocer's acting CEO and son of founder Raymond, last week told shareholders that the first benefits of the reorganisation, started on former CEO Nick Badminton's watch, were now showing.
However, the good news was tempered by a downbeat statement on the medium-term outlook for the struggling retailer due to tighter consumer belts, increased competition in the retail sector and higher food inflation and costs.
It's going to be interesting to see what these improvements are, because it seems to me that the grocer's sombre medium-term outlook will feed the same woes of old. It is still facing increased competition from an aggressive roll-out of Woolworths Food chain stores, which have taken some of its high-end customers, while better pricing by Shoprite - because of an extensive distribution network - continues to eat away at the middle-to lower-income customer base. It's a tale that hasn't changed much.
In such an environment, higher food inflation doesn't make it any easier to aggressively compete on price, especially with cash-rich Walmart added to the equation.
I doubt that there will be any significant change in its fortunes without drastic changes to how things have been done at Pick n Pay since the first store was opened.
When compared with its rivals over the past three years, Pick n Pay really does look as if it is operating in an environment closer to developed economies, as in Europe.
Since June 2009, the grocer has gained only 33%, while Shoprite has almost tripled in value. Woolworths has been the outperformer, gaining more than 330%, which basically means the food and fashion retailer has grown more than four times.
The biggest thing in the Pick n Pay story is who'll be the next CEO, and how big a role in the day-to-day running of the company the family will continue to play.
IF POLICY makers in the euro zone were hoping a favourable outcome in the Greek elections would buy them more time to grapple with their crisis, they must have been very disappointed by the markets' response to the poll. They quite quickly renewed their attention on Spain's tribulations.
Spanish 10-year yields rose to a euro-era record of 7,1%. It's become the norm over the past few years for markets to build to a frenzy before an event such as the Greek elections or a summit, and then to immediately shift focus to another hot spot in the drawn-out saga of Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
In terms of scale, Greece is number seven in the 17-member euro zone. Spain is number four.
So on we move to the next crisis, before we come back to Greece again, which will no doubt be too soon. Much credit is due to the Mediterranean country for choosing a conservative, pro-euro party over the ultra-left radical party that proposed tearing up previous bail-out agreements.
With a shrinking economy, cuts to wages and pensions, the attraction of the latter was perhaps understandable, if not in the country's best interest.
But the polls were just one of many obstacles that still lie ahead for European politicians. We are already being primed for yet another crisis-defining summit at the end of this month with decisions over fiscal and banking union. This week, markets have the G-20 summit in Mexico to focus on.
Just when we shall stop all this shifting of focus is unclear. One thing is certain, though, it won't end until there is enough evidence of a sustained global economic recovery, starting with the world's biggest economy, the US.
Leaders in Mexico will try to calm markets with strong statements of intent to solve European woes, but it is only when we see enough economic data in support of a global recovery that the uncertainty will cool.
We've heard enough warnings of the dire consequences if Europe doesn't shape up, and we'll hear more this week. But what we actually need are measures to boost economic growth, and not just another stimulus package.
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