TFG recently acquired Jet and Tapestry, seeing it enter into the value and home markets.
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Bongiwe Ntuli was good at maths and accounting from a very young age,but only really fell in love with finance when she entered the corporate world after completing her articles. “I enjoy dealing with different complex problems – no day is ever the same as the last,” she says. “And as you rise up through the management ranks, you realise the importance of what you do and the direct impact of your decisions on the organisations and stakeholders you work for, as well as the communities they operate in at large.”
Bongiwe’s favourite parts of the CFO role are treasury management, procurement and mergers and acquisitions.
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Bongiwe joined TFG as CFO in 2019, and a year later, Covid-19 hit. “We had to ensure sufficient liquidity, so the treasury team and I worked with local banks to shore up their balance sheet,” she explains.
They also embarked on a capital raising project, which was oversubscribed by 2.3 times due to enormous support from stakeholders. Altogether, they raised R3.8 billion.
With a strong balance sheet and a “war chest”, Bongiwe explains that the company was ready to take advantage of any opportunities that came from the pandemic, and look for further organic growth opportunities. “Jet and Edgars went into business administration around the same time and I knew TFG would be the best home for Jet,” she adds. “Jet was for sale for R380 million, and for a business that once made a turnover of R8 billion, we knew that it had great potential with the right owner.”
She explains that TFG had always played into the low, middle and upper segments of the retail markets, and Jet allowed the group to grow their market share further into the value segment. “This is a good segment to play in when the economy isn’t doing well.”
She adds that all TFG’s brands are thriving in the current environment, with some of their mid to upper segment brands seeing double digit growth.
However, Bongiwe explains that what makes her most proud of the Jet acquisition is the fact that it saved the jobs of over 5,000 store workers, as well as the jobs in supplier companies. “It excited me to be part of something that not only brought turnover for TFG, fitted with our strategy of growing the value segment, but also assisted in saving thousands of jobs.”
Now, two years later, Jet contributes over R5 billion in turnover to TFG and has had payback of less than 12 months. “All the surprises have been positive – it's a strong brand that’s loved by the customers and has a strong management team,” Bongiwe says.
TFG also recently acquired Tapestry, which owns Coricraft, Volpes and Dial-a-Bed. “We’ve always had @Home, but it only made up two to three percent of the furniture and home retail industry,” Bongiwe says. “By acquiring Tapestry, which is almost the same size as our @Home business, we were able to grow our market share in this segment and play a meaningful role in the mid to upper consumer home sector.”
Tapestry also shared the TFG values of manufacturing and sourcing local products, which Bongiwe explains was one of the biggest drawcards for her when considering the acquisition. “As a leading retailer in local quick response manufacturing in South Africa, the Tapestry business model resonated with TFG’s ESG purpose, and bolstered our social upliftment ambitions.”
Bongiwe and TFG management are always on the lookout for good M&A opportunities, and explains that, even now, in the midst of the economic turmoil, TFG continues to grow its market share and will open approximately 500 outlets in its 2023 financial year alone.
Not without challenges
The retail sector was recently hit hard by the civil unrest in the country and the subsequent looting that occured. Bongiwe says that 199 of TFG’s stores were looted across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng during this period. “For precautionary measures, we closed about 1,000 stores during that week to avoid further looting, and in just that week alone our turnover was impacted by up to R700 million.”
However, about 180 of the 199 stores that were looted are back in commission again and making a healthy turnover and profits.
Bongiwe travels extensively for business as TFG is a global retailer with strong successful brands in the UK and Australia. She also enjoys taking holidays locally and overseas when she has time.
She explains that the highlight of her travels this year was the opportunity to go to Wimbledon and watch the men’s final. “It was a thrilling experience.”
When she isn’t working, which she says is not often, she likes to curl up on her couch at home , read a nice book or watch documentaries and movies on Netflix. She also enjoys visiting her parents and siblings in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.