Edcon CEO Bernie Brookes working hard to turn company around

Edcon, the largest non-food retailer in South Africa, has been in operation for more than 80 years and has expanded its footprint to include over 1,400 stores through nine different store formats. Two months ago it appointed Bernie Brookes, the former CEO of Myer (Australia’s largest department store), to the helm as its CEO. Brookes took over from Jürgen Schreiber, now heading up US-based Rexall Health.

Brookes has been hard at work trying to remedy the retailer's woes and bring the company back to profitability. He has unveiled some of the company's turnaround plans to stabilise the group, undertaking customer research and making personal store visits to better understand consumers' wants as part of this.

Indeed, the company's profits have been on the decline in recent years. For the three months to September, Edcon's total retail sales declined by 0.1%, brought down by a 9.9% decline in credit sales. During the period under review, credit sales contributed 43.5% of total sales. They are, however, expected to decline to 40.3% of total sales in the second quarter of 2016.

On 19 November, when Edcon released its results for the three months ending 26 September, Brookes said:

"Since joining Edcon at the end of September, my priority has been on getting to know the business and, importantly, the needs of our many customers. At this early stage, I am more convinced than ever about the future potential of the Edcon group and its various brands on South African society, as well as the positive impact we can continue to make on the lives of all our stakeholders.... There have been some good changes made within the group over the last few years, which we will build on. However, I believe the imperative now, is to focus our attention on the needs and demands of our vast customer base as well as simplifying the business. It is a privilege to be in this role and I expect to be in a position, very soon, to share more details on our plan to return Edcon to its preeminent position in the market."

The Edcon CEO says further details of the turnaround strategy will be released in December.

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