Steinhoff breakaway Mr. Tekkie's CFO excited about new startup

CFO Robin Seabrook: Our focus is providing a good future for staff that stood together.

Four months after Tekkie Town founder Braam van Huyssteen and his management team walked out of Tekkie Town’s head office in George, they have announced the launch of their new retail chain, Mr. Tekkie

Former chief information officer of Tekkie Town Robin Seabrook, who will be the chief financial officer at Mr. Tekkie, said that 15 stores are expected to be launched over the next two months and that they will proceed with a strong growth phase, opening a possible 300 stores over the next five years. 

Robin says: 

“Mr. Tekkie is being set up as a ‘craft brand house’ with a brand new look, and more clothing and accessories alongside the footwear, that can exist alongside rather than competing with Tekkie Town.”

The inaugural stores will be opened on 24 October and will be located in Acornhoek in  Mpumalanga, and Bloemfontein. On 25 October, another store will open in Cape Town and a further store will be opened in George towards the end of November.  

When CFO South Africa asked Robin how it felt to be opening the first stores in this new chain and what lies ahead for them, he said: 

“What an exciting time being part of the setup of a brand new retail company in South Africa from scratch. Mr. Tekkie is a true underdog story of a group of individuals who stood together as a result of how Pepkor acted in pushing Braam from the business he founded, Tekkie Town, which had been built up over time by many of them from the very first store.” 

Tekkie Town was sold to Steinhoff International and paid for in what Seabrook describes as “fools gold” with non-trading restrictions. Van Huyssteen filed a lawsuit seeking restitution of the business to him and its former owners on the basis of “fraudulent misrepresentation by Steinhoff in the sale process”. 

Robin says: 

“In short, Braam was swindled out his shareholding in Tekkie Town, and subsequently forced out of employment by the new company that was listed out of Steinhoff International, namely Steinhoff Africa Retail (STAR) - recently renamed to Pepkor holdings. With certain promises not being delivered on, such as an earn out agreement, along with immense tensions building over disagreements between senior management in how to manage the business, a mass walk out of Tekkie Town staff ensued.” 

In September, Pepkor filed a court order against the former Tekkie Town executives in an attempt to prevent them setting up a rival operation. 

“We are confident of success in the restitution case,” Robin says. 

As of today, the former staff of Tekkie Town are now hard at work with the imminent launch of the first Mr. Tekkie stores. 

“Our focus is not in righting the wrongs of the past, but in making a success of this new venture, and providing employment and a good future to all staff and their families that stood together,” says Robin.  

Along with his new position and this new companies, there are many responsibilities that lay ahead for Robin. About his new role, he says: 

“I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the late 90s and spent most of my career in the Casino and Hotel industry with Gold Reef Resorts and Tsogo Sun, mostly as Director of Operations and Complex General Manager. I nevertheless always had a strong focus on financial matters, and it has been refreshing and different in working in a traditionally more financial role once again. The key focus in my position, over and above that of a traditional financial role, is to ensure that we start off Mr. Tekkie with the correct cost structures and financial disciplines with each and every staff member, as our ‘one store approach’ must be regularly replicated with our intended launch of close to 60 stores per annum over the next few years. When doing this, consistency of process is vital.”

However, he adds that as much as he is focused on the finance side of things, the success of the business comes from whether the general public buys into the new brand. “I believe that our fresh and unique positioning in the South African retail market will appeal to a large variety of consumers. We place the customer first, and our story moving forward will reflect that.”