CFO Reeza Isaacs says Woolworths expresses sadness over civil unrest in South Africa

Eleven Woolworths stores have been looted and severely damaged in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, Reeza says.

Woolworths has announced that the recent civil unrest in South Africa has had a significant impact on its operations, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as on its employees, customers and the broader community.

“Woolworths echoes the sadness and deep concern expressed by many over the civil unrest in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, which escalated into widespread looting and destruction of property in the affected areas,” says FD Reeza Isaacs. “We are, however, grateful that none of our employees in these affected areas suffered any injury.”

He explains that all of the clothing and food retailer’s stores in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as a number of stores in Gauteng, last week had to temporarily close in order to prioritise the safety of its employees and customers.

Its online delivery services and certain suppliers in those areas were also significantly affected, given significant damage to their assets.

Reeza says 11 Woolworths stores have been looted and severely damaged, with nine of the 11 stores in KwaZulu-Natal and two in Gauteng. “Although looters gained entry to the Woolworths Maxmead Distribution Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, the infrastructure was not severely damaged and has been secured, together with our other distribution centres.”

Woolworths has resumed its operations and has prioritised the provision of food into KwaZulu-Natal. “We are working closely with our suppliers and partners to ensure the ongoing availability of stock,” Reeza says, adding that this is largely dependent on maintaining the safety of key transport routes, the ability of local suppliers to continue production, the ability of staff to access stores, and the safety of logistics and distribution operations.

“We are also engaging with government and industry bodies to support efforts to create a safe environment for the resumption of normal business activity,” Reeza says. “Where we believe it is safe and feasible to do so, we have begun reopening stores in most areas of KwaZulu-Natal.”

He adds that Woolworths has SA Special Risk Insurance Assurance (SASRIA) cover in place in respect of material damage caused by the rioting, together with the related business interruption cover. “We are quantifying the damage caused to our stores and distribution centre and will lodge the relevant claims timeously.”

Reeza thanked the stores, supply chain and distribution centre teams, as well as Woolworths security personnel and partners who have worked tirelessly to protect the business. “We would also like to thank all of our customers for their understanding and continued support as we work our way through these challenges, and the community watch groups who also assisted where they could.”

He concludes that, “The last 18 months has demonstrated the resilience of our business, driven by the passion and commitment of our people.”