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Whitey Basson: What retirement? Wiese still calls me all the time…

Sep 16 2017 09:00
Carin Smith

Cape Town - "I don't really know what this semi-retirement of mine means, because Christo Wiese still calls me all the time," said Whitey Basson, former group CEO of Shoprite, at the congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres taking place in Cape Town.

He told Fin24 that he will be fully retired at the end of the month.

Basson was honoured at the congress with the Pioneer Award for his contribution to the industry over the years.

"Property is likely the most vital factor in the profitability of the retail sector. It plays a major role in the retail sector of SA," said Basson.

"I have spent so many millions on retail property over the years," he joked about receiving the award.

He told Fin24 that shopping centres and retail would take different routes to try and survive in a changing world. He believes there are not too many shopping centres in SA yet in terms of square metres, although capacity might be close to maximum.

"The problem with retail is that the world it operates in is changing and leads to fewer square metres being needed for retail," he said. "I think the shopping centres that focus on entertainment will do better."

What is happening in the SA retail industry is almost like a second industrial revolution, he said.

"Food retailers will be safe for now, in my view, because of the complexity of delivery. But everything delivered from a warehouse will be under threat because of technology."

He thinks smaller shopping centres might do better than large regional ones, because the larger centres have so many more shops to deal with. At the same time big centres can still adapt and change where needed.

"You must not regard the traditional retail approach as the elements of a shopping centre. Retail will be indicating to shopping malls what the new needs are," he said.

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