Retail Business in South Africa

The South African retail market is a giant compared to the rest of Africa, but also the 20th largest in the world. In 2011 retail sales for the first time in history surpassed the one trillion rand mark. Yet the retail market is dominated by only about a dozen large holding companies which collectively own the majority of the country’s biggest brands. The biggest of these: Shoprite,Pick n Pay, Spar and Massmart – account for about 80% of local retail sales.With the exception of Massmart, which was taken over in 2011 by Wallmart, the world’s largest retailer, all the others are South African owned. Because of the dominance of the larger players, the South African retail industry continues to move toward mall-based retailing. Despite the dominance of large groups, there are several thousand medium and small operations, of which a significant portion consists of informal traders. In fact, the lower end of the scale is characterised by about a 100 000 informal spaza shops with an estimated annual turnover of over R7 billion. The global economic uncertainty, together with rising inflation and commodity prices, as well as the escalating cost of electricity and fuel, has dampened sales volume in this sector. Volume growth for 2012 was only 0,7% and the economic outlook going forward for the next five years is expected to be moderate to unspectacular. Another characteristic of the South African retail industry is the way how many of the larger players in the market have responded to the low growth scenario. Several of them have expanded their activities into Africa. South African retailers are perhaps leading the second scramble for Africa.