Cape Town – The man named to take over the role of Shoprite CEO in 2017 will have to fit into the shoes of a giant, after Whitey Basson announced he would retire at the end of 2016.
Announcing the retirement, Shoprite chairperson Christo Wiese said in a statement on Monday that Basson “deserves his reputation as one of South Africa's retail giants”.
READ: Whitey Basson to retire as Shoprite CEO
Now that the giant is stepping aside, it falls on chief operating officer (COO) Pieter Engelbrecht to fill Basson’s shoes come January 1 2017.
Engelbrecht is “a seasoned retail executive, with nearly two decades of in-depth experience” at Shoprite, the group said on its website on Monday.
Shoprite said he brings with him a detailed understanding of the workings of the business from store operations, supply chain and having been a driving force of strategic thinking and decisiveness.
Basson will remain on the Shoprite board as non-executive vice-chairperson to ensure an orderly leadership transition, and he will remain available to management.
"I look forward to being a sounding board for Pieter Engelbrecht and his team as they take the company forward and continue the high standards we have always set ourselves as the supermarket with the lowest prices and the highest level of customer satisfaction,” said Basson.
READ: Shoprite doubles Whitey Basson’s pay after bonus
“In the past 20 years, Mr Engelbrecht has played a pivotal role in driving the group’s expansion both in South Africa and throughout the continent as chief operating officer, alongside Whitey Basson who decided to retire after a remarkable career of nearly 45 years,” it said.
Engelbrecht is a chartered accountant with an honours degree in accounting science and a bachelor of commerce from Stellenbosch University.
“He joined the firm previously known as Coopers & Lybrand in 1993, gaining experience through various roles in the firm’s auditing and corporate finance divisions,” Shoprite said.
He then joined Shoprite Checkers in 1997, spending 10 years leading the project office, establishing new brands into multi-billion rand businesses, it said.
“During this time, he launched MoneyMarket, USave and LiquorShop, and led the acquisitions of Computicket and Transpharm Pharmaceutical Wholesalers,” the group said.
He was appointed to the board of directors of Shoprite Checkers in 2003 and was later appointed as alternate director of Shoprite Holdings in 2005.
In 2007, Engelbrecht became Shoprite COO, “focusing on driving down costs while continuing the rapid expansion of the business”.
“On the international front, he has been instrumental in the establishment of Shoprite’s position as the number one retailer in Africa.”
Shoprite meanwhile also announced on Monday that the group increased turnover by 15.7% in the three months to September 2016.
RSA Supermarkets, the group’s primary business, increased sales by 12.4% during a period when internal inflation increased to 7.2%, driven by the drought’s impact on fresh produce prices and basic commodity items. The weaker rand also pushed up the cost of imported general merchandise goods, it said.
The group said the core customer base of its Shoprite chain remained under pressure from rising costs, labour instability and lack of job creation.
Shoprite’s non-South African supermarkets achieved a turnover growth of 35.1% (55% in constant currencies) despite the impact of lower commodity prices and the devaluation of the currencies of the three main countries where the group trades on the continent.
The smaller divisions also made a good contribution to group turnover. The furniture division, while still labouring under the effect of the amendments to the National Credit Act, reported increased sales of 9.1% while OK Franchise saw a growth of 14.5%, in line with the group’s performance.
Store openings are continuing as planned with 16 supermarkets and five furniture stores opened during this quarter.
By 10:32 Shoprite shares were changing hands 4.95% higher at R200.44 on the JSE.
Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter: